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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising
From the first page, I was hooked. This story revolves around a young woman who has "locked-in" syndrome ie she is a prisoner within her own body, having been attacked and suffering a stroke as a result. At first the police think it was a murder attempt gone wrong, but the truth is even more chilling -- the attacker meant to leave her like this and previous deaths were...
Published on 14 Jan 2003 by Amazon Customer

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A weary plod
I bought this book because I recalled seeing Mark Billingham's face pasted up on tube station walls a while back and I wanted to read the first novel by someone who apparently deserved this attention.

Well, it starts off OK. The detective on the case is the usual hackneyed weary type with a divorce and some kind of drink problem (eyes starting to close), who...
Published on 27 Jun 2009 by Stuart Walsh


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising, 14 Jan 2003
From the first page, I was hooked. This story revolves around a young woman who has "locked-in" syndrome ie she is a prisoner within her own body, having been attacked and suffering a stroke as a result. At first the police think it was a murder attempt gone wrong, but the truth is even more chilling -- the attacker meant to leave her like this and previous deaths were mistakes on his part. Is this girl the only one with any clues to the perpetrator? Now he has succeeded once, who will his next subject be? I won't reveal any more of the plot, but the writing is superb. The policeman has a great stock of one-liners; he reminded me of Inspector Rebus, and there is a nice injection of black hospital humour. The characters were true to life, nicely flawed, and as a British crime thriller, the reader does not have to contend with Americanisms and superhuman cops. A great read. I'm looking forward to reading Mark Billingham's next.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't let the bed-bugs bite...., 11 Oct 2003
Finally. A thriller I actually enjoyed!
Sleepyhead is a neat little book that sets a very plausable plot and doesn't get too OTT for the sake of it. Despite the blurb on the back, it's not a book that is going to keep you awake at night, but offers a few chills in just the right places.
Character-wise, the book also succeeds. Although Billingham is usually associated with stand-up comedy, Sleepyhead does not turn into a dizzy spoof of itself. Each character certainly makes the odd humorous observation, but no more than any human who finds themself in a stressful situation. The central character, D.I Tom Thorne is believable, although the old formulas of 'hard-boiled detective with a grudge/mysterious past' does crop up on occasion. This is toned down by development of other characters, such as Holland, Hendricks etc.
One thing that the book succeeds on in particular is the relationships between the characters involved. Unfortunately, however, because of this, the ending becomes either a tad predictable, or slightly confusing. I'd like to explain further my reasoning, but I may give something away.
Saying that though, I still enjoyed the book. As I mentioned, I'm not a huge fan of crime thrillers, but this book may be an indication that I may have been unlucky in my fiction selection in the past, and that the crime thriller genre is far from dead.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sleep well....., 22 Dec 2006
By 
OEJ - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This is Mark Billingham's debut novel featuring the stout figured DI Tom Thorne, just turned 40 and on the trail of a psychopath who kills a number of women `by accident' until eventually he is successful in his most unusual objective : to leave them somewhere in between life and death. The murders are errors on his part while he perfects his technique. Early on we are presented with a prime suspect, or at least someone who Thorne is convinced is the killer, so this novel becomes less of a whodunit as much as a "did he or didn't he?" - and I for one was never completely sure about the answer until hundreds of pages later and the moment of revelation.

Despite the serial-killer storyline, Mark Billingham successfully manages to create a `novel' twist to the well-worn theme by making it clear that all of the murders were mistakes, at least in the mind of the perpetrator who has something of an obsession with Thorne and in addition to making direct (but anonymous) contact with the determined copper he seems to want Thorne to be the one who finally nabs him. Thorne has emotional scars of his own, dating back several years and which unknowing to him have served to shape his personality both as a detective and as a man. All is eventually revealed, and very disturbing it is. Thorne's something of a maverick, sometimes part of the team but often the cavalier, maybe he's on the verge of some kind of burned-out breakdown but just when you think he's going off the rails, he gets back on track again.

Having read Lazy Bones, Scaredy Cat and The Burning Girl in times past I have gone about Mark's work (which all feature DI Thorne) in the wrong chronological order but in a way I feel that I'm the better for it - Sleepyhead is probably the strongest of the story lines and it is convincing, consistent and authentic from start to finish. Yes, even the finish is thoroughly well planned and delivered, dare I say it had the faintest of links to The Silence of the Lambs (by Thomas Harris), in that finale when the doorbell rings and we all expect the FBI to burst into the house of Buffalo Bill but clever time and location manipulation surprised us when the said Bill opened the door to Clarence Starling - I mention this mainly because there is reference early on in Sleepyhead of this exact moment (in the film, and possibly the book), so we are given a hint of the structure of the ending but guess what.....I missed that, so I was taken by surprise. Glad I was too.

Mark Billingham says that writing dark, violent novels such as this and the others in the Thorne series serve as a suitable counterpoint to his very different other life as a stand-up comedian; well those lives are clearly poles apart, because surely the opposite of standing up is lying down, and in Sleepyhead there's quite a lot of that going on.

Dead opposite.

For me, Sleepyhead is Mark's best novel, it's a highly impressive debut and I hope he returns to these very high standards again in the future. Lazybones delivered much of the same, I think it slipped just a bit with Scaredy Cat and more so with The Burning Girl; Lifeless was better and Buried was Billingham back to his best - although Sleepyhead remains my favourite for now (it was also voted the favourite among Mark Billingham fans on a poll on his web-site).

As for you - I suggest you buy the whole lot, all six. You won't be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of this type of book around but this is done very well, 21 Jan 2010
By 
Janie U (Kings Cliffe, England) - See all my reviews
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The troubled cop as the lead character in a murder story has been used far too many times but when it is as well written as this book then I can forgive the author for using a cliche.
The language is surprisingly descriptive and evocative. It is used to good effect within the crime scenes and is describes emotions particularly well.
I found myself getting very frustrated with a few of the police characters surrounding the main man, although I'm sure that was the intention of the author.
This book is the first in a series of Tom Thorne stories and is a very good introduction. He has been in the police force for so time and has an interesting history which is gradually fed to the reader throughout the book. I came away wanting to know more about Tom which will encourage me to pick up some more of the other books sometime.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stand-Up, Lie Down, 9 Feb 2006
By 
OEJ - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This is Mark Billingham’s debut novel featuring the stout figured DI Tom Thorne, just turned 40 and on the trail of a psychopath who kills a number of women ‘by accident’ until eventually he is successful in his most unusual objective : to leave them somewhere in between life and death. The murders are errors on his part while he perfects his technique. Early on we are presented with a prime suspect, or at least someone who Thorne is convinced is the killer, so this novel becomes less of a whodunit as much as a “did he or didn’t he?” – and I for one was never completely sure about the answer until hundreds of pages later and the moment of revelation.
Despite the serial-killer storyline, Mark Billingham successfully manages to create a ‘novel’ twist to the well-worn theme by making it clear that all of the murders were mistakes, at least in the mind of the perpetrator who has something of an obsession with Thorne and in addition to making direct (but anonymous) contact with the determined copper he seems to want Thorne to be the one who finally nabs him. Thorne has emotional scars of his own, dating back several years and which unknowing to him have served to shape his personality both as a detective and as a man. All is eventually revealed, and very disturbing it is. Thorne’s something of a maverick, sometimes part of the team but often the cavalier, maybe he’s on the verge of some kind of burned-out breakdown but just when you think he’s going off the rails, he gets back on track again.
Having read Lazy Bones, Scaredy Cat and The Burning Girl in times past I have gone about Mark’s work (which all feature DI Thorne) in the wrong chronological order but in a way I feel that I’m the better for it – Sleepyhead is probably the strongest of the story lines and it is convincing, consistent and authentic from start to finish. Yes, even the finish is thoroughly well planned and delivered, dare I say it had the faintest of links to The Silence of the Lambs (by Thomas Harris), in that finale when the doorbell rings and we all expect the FBI to burst into the house of Buffalo Bill but clever time and location manipulation surprised us when the said Bill opened the door to Clarence Starling – I mention this mainly because there is reference early on in Sleepyhead of this exact moment (in the film, and possibly the book), so we are given a hint of the structure of the ending but guess what…..I missed that, so I was taken by surprise. Glad I was too.
Mark Billingham says that writing dark, violent novels such as this and the others in the Thorne series serve as a suitable counterpoint to his very different other life as a stand-up comedian; well those lives are clearly poles apart, because surely the opposite of standing up is lying down, and in Sleepyhead there’s quite a lot of that going on.
Dead opposite.
For me, Sleepyhead is Mark’s best novel, it’s a highly impressive debut and I hope he returns to these very high standards again in the future. Lazybones promised much of the same, I think it slipped just a bit with Scaredy Cat and The Burning Girl, but I’m off to read Lifeless right now (reports suggest he’s back on top form) and I will definitely buy Buried when it’s released soon.
As for you – I suggest you buy the whole lot, all six. You won’t be disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wake Up, Boo!, 12 Jun 2009
By 
To write a good crime thriller you have to grab a reader from the very start. With `Sleepy Head' writer Mark Billingham does just this. From the moment we are introduced to DI Thorne we are thrown into a dark and compelling drama. The case itself is paced brilliantly as the killer tries to play a game of cat and mouse with Thorne. With a realistic and slightly depressing opinion of the police and NHS, Billingham brings an earthiness and Britishness to his crime fiction. There is no doubting that the book is pretty farfetched and a little cheesy at times, but Billingham's writing is of a good standard keeping you gripped.

Having read later books in the series I think that perhaps `Sleepy Head' may be Billingham's first and best book with later books not being anywhere near as clinical. Here Thorne is a new discovery and we learn enough about him to like him, but not enough to grow bored. As a fan of crime fiction I was able to work out the solution relatively early on, but I give kudos to any author willing to sneak a couple of hints into a book to give the readers a chance. `Sleepy Head' is a dark and intense crime thriller that feels refreshingly British; I certainly recommend it to fans of Rankin or Connolly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You won't be all that sleepy..., 26 Aug 2007
By 
tiwwa (South Africa) - See all my reviews
DI Tom Thorne is placed on a case involving the death of 3 women... Then something happens... A woman survives. But Thorne figures out that the killer doesn't want his victims dead, he wants them alive but paralyzed in a condition called Locked-In--Syndrome. Unable to speak or move the victim is now the killer's masterpiece, the others accidentally dead.

I think Mark Billingham taps into the dark corners of your mind and locks you into this novel; making you all the more terrified each night. Tom Thorne takes you into the world of policing, through corruption and his own lunacy at some points; while also romancing a doctor in her prime.

The thoughts of the victim become a breath of fresh air between chapters, black comedy and sarcasm mixed in with the tragic life of a woman locked in her own body. Thorne may start pissing you off every now and then but that's hardly worth not reading this book.

Thrills you until the very, very unexpected last few chapters where the whole novel comes together in a way you'll never guess.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A weary plod, 27 Jun 2009
By 
Stuart Walsh (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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I bought this book because I recalled seeing Mark Billingham's face pasted up on tube station walls a while back and I wanted to read the first novel by someone who apparently deserved this attention.

Well, it starts off OK. The detective on the case is the usual hackneyed weary type with a divorce and some kind of drink problem (eyes starting to close), who argues with his boss (stretch arms), feels sorry for a victim who's still alive and gets involved with her doctor (yawn) who just happens to have had a fling with the main suspect (Zzzzzzz), then eventually, with no clues finds the suspect who isn't who we/I thought through pure luck (flatline - beeeeeeeeeeeep).

This thing plods along with glacial vigour. We are constantly told that this Thorne guy is one of the best but we never find out why; he certainly doesn't show any Columbo-esque genius - he's stupid: Is it normal police practice to ring up a murder suspect to tell them that you are on your way to arrest them? Being a naive type, I would have thought doing that would give the suspect a chance to escape, but that's just the way my non-police brain works.

And perleeeze!! Finding one door that should be locked and isn't locked is just about getbyable, but three? And is it me, but I thought London had a good transport system with it's 1000's of taxis, 100's of buses and a tube and rail network that are the envy of the world, so why did the person who knew he was a suspect gladly give the 'tec a lift instead of pointing him towards a mode of public transport? Do fibres from the boot of a modern car really stick limpet-like to briefcases? And this one has got to take the total output of Mcvites: A son wants to look like his father so he sprays a bit of grey dye in his hair, and, get this, the woman who has known the father all her working life, doesn't notice the disguise!!!!! Then, there's more, even the genius detective himself admits that the 'disguise' made the son look 10 years older! TEN YEARS OLDER?? Surely the age difference between a professional doctor and his son must be at least 21?

This book is chock full of extremely lazy writing like this. I don't read much detective fiction but this is frankly appalling. For a fantastic police book that, alas, doesn't have much detecting in it but is 100% unputdownable, buy Joseph Wambaugh's "The Choirboys". Now that IS very, very good writing.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea, but fails to pull it off, 16 Jun 2003
By 
Katie James (Kedington, SUFFOLK United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
After reading the blurb on the back of the book, I was largely disappointed with the effect of the novel. The beginning is fast paced and the characters are well written, although often unlikeable. It loses pace in the middle however and the author loses sight of the most appealing factor of the novel, one of the killer's victims who is suffering from locked in syndrome. Her thoughts on her surroundings and the characters at the end of each chapter are a breath of fresh air throughout a rather predictable plotline.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Platitudes escape me, 7 Oct 2010
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Sleepyhead is a powerful, gripping story. Characters are rounded out and very realistic. The plot holds you intensely and the final twists are almost unpredictable. I want more Mark Billingham!
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Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne Novels)
Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne Novels) by Mark Billingham (Paperback - 1 Mar 2012)
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