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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychiatry, paranoia and mental illness - with a haunting twist
Our narrator is a young and ambitious doctor who has taken on a new job in a dark and gothic psychiatric hospital in a bleak part of Suffolk. But his eminent mentor is conducting a controversial experiment in sleep therapy - and puzzling happenings start to take on a macabre and frightening edge...

The marketing for this book is perhaps not doing it any favours...
Published 14 months ago by Roman Clodia

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less than the sum of its parts
This will be quite a difficult review to write, not because The Sleep Room is a difficult book (it isn't; it's an easy-peasy piece of quick-reading genre fiction) but simply because I didn't really have any strong feelings about it. I don't feel as if I wasted my time reading it, but equally I don't think I really got a great deal out of it either.

The premise...
Published 8 months ago by Joanne Sheppard


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychiatry, paranoia and mental illness - with a haunting twist, 19 Oct 2013
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Sleep Room (Paperback)
Our narrator is a young and ambitious doctor who has taken on a new job in a dark and gothic psychiatric hospital in a bleak part of Suffolk. But his eminent mentor is conducting a controversial experiment in sleep therapy - and puzzling happenings start to take on a macabre and frightening edge...

The marketing for this book is perhaps not doing it any favours by calling it a horror story because it certainly isn't in the general sense applied to books. Instead, what we have here is a very clever tale of psychiatry, paranoia and mental illness, informed by a modern Freudian framework - and given a masterful twist with a beautifully controlled sleight of hand.

Tallis, taking a break from his historical Liebermann series set in turn of the century Vienna, re-works a version of the nineteenth-century `supernatural' story (think MR James, Henry James) combined with modern elements taken from the medical world of the 1950s.

This is a detailed story written in authentically elegant prose which builds up atmosphere, mood and character in a leisurely way. I don't want to give away anything about the plot because Tallis has orchestrated it so beautifully - and it's not until the end that every hint and tiny detail falls subtly and satisfyingly into its rightful place.

So don't come to this expecting crude shocks and horrors - this is far more literary and nuanced than that. I found this creepy, sinister and increasingly menacing, but it's not until the shocking ending that I realised quite how clever - and haunting - this story really is.

If you love the insinuating and restrained `horror' of books like The Turn of the Screw then this may well be for you - highly recommended.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing - could not put it down, 16 Oct 2013
By 
rhosymynydd "liz" (west wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Hardcover)
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The Sleep Room by F R Tallis is alarming, terrifying and keeps the reader worrying... what is true? what is not?

Based on historical background of psychological treatments in the all too recent past, it presents a glimpse into the world of 1950-60's psychology and its early developments and continues to intrigue and shock us with revelations.

Dr. James Richardson, is offered a job of a lifetime by a renowned professor of Psychology, Dr Maitland. Dr Maitland is famous, he often talks of his work on the radio and has published many learned theories. For Richardson, this is a chance to complete his own thesis in a new, calm environment, learning from the best and looking after patients under his care. He arrives at the rather gloomy Wyldehope Hall, Suffolk, leaving behind a boring relationship in London.

One of his tasks is to manage a controversial new project - a new therapy where his patients will be kept asleep (for the most part) for long periods, being woken only to eat and complete their toilet needs. His superior, Maitland, visits irregularly to watch his experiment and proffer advice, often bringing other medical staff with him. Richardson's fellow staff are lonely too in the depths of Suffolk, and he is tempted into an inappropriate relationship with a young nurse. With it come visions and darkness. We lose the sense of time as he seems to sink into his own world and spends time with those asleep.

The Sleep Room is a dark place and invites the reader to join in this gruesome place between life and death until disaster strikes...or does it? we are kept on a knife edge, empathetic with Richardson's solitary existence, understanding his need for comfort but watching his slow decline into something else. This is a very disturbing book to read, especially when you understand that some of these theories and experiments were actually carried out, even by the CIA in the US. It is a very scary novel for its reality alone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less than the sum of its parts, 5 April 2014
By 
Joanne Sheppard (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Kindle Edition)
This will be quite a difficult review to write, not because The Sleep Room is a difficult book (it isn't; it's an easy-peasy piece of quick-reading genre fiction) but simply because I didn't really have any strong feelings about it. I don't feel as if I wasted my time reading it, but equally I don't think I really got a great deal out of it either.

The premise of The Sleep Room is that of 1950s doctor taking up a residential post at a psychiatric hospital under the supervision of Hugh Maitland, a famous psychiatrist well known for his media presence and for his dismissal of 'couch merchants' and psychoanalytical techniques in favour of purely physical treatments such as antidepressants, sedation and ECT. His latest project is the experimental treatment of six disturbed women by, essentially, keeping them permanently asleep, except for short periods when they're woken for feeding, washing and the unpleasant-sounding 'voiding'.

If you think this treatment sounds slightly creepy, it is, and so is the hospital in general, with its isolated location and strange secrets. It's not long before Richardson, the narrator, finds himself spooked by odd noises, the peculiar agitation and unease of the patients and nurses alike, and by his observation that all the sleep room patients mysteriously enter the 'dreaming' stage of sleep at the same time each day.

And to be honest, that's really pretty much it. The horror elements are fairly low-key, except for one entertainingly gruesome showpiece with a self-harming patient, and there is a twist which should be gobsmacking but which I just found anticlimactic. It's not that The Sleep Room is bad - it really isn't. FR Tallis' prose is clear, precise and matter-of-fact in a way that befits the scientifically-minded narrator very well and contrasts nicely with the peculiarity of the events he experiences; the book's post-war setting is one I always enjoy, works perfectly for this story and is convincingly realised by the author; the feeling of isolation experienced by Richardson is suitably claustrophobic. But overall, The Sleep Room struck me as a book that is less than the sum of its parts. None of the characters are particularly memorable, and there is something lacking when it comes to the building of atmosphere, something that should be essential in supernatural fiction.

I really would like to be more enthusiastic as it's rare that I'm indifferent to a book and there were plenty of things about The Sleep Room that I thought were well-executed and enjoyable. But there just wasn't anything about it that really stood out. Oddly, I can see it working well as a film or a TV drama, however, and I would happily watch an adaptation of it - perhaps some arresting visual interpretations of the supernatural goings-on could lend The Sleep Room the sense of atmosphere I felt it lacked. And despite my misgivings I would almost certainly pick up another book by FR Tallis and give it a go.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but predictable and lacking the hyped scare factor., 24 Sep 2013
By 
JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Hardcover)
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I'm not quite sure how I'd categorise The Sleep Room as it's such a mix of different themes. There are light elements of the paranormal running alongside traditional horror (psychiatric hospital housed inside an old hall), merging with a medical/clinical drama featuring the mistreatment of psychiatric patients during the latter half of the 1950s. Add to the mixture some very odd doctors, odder patients and a background of complete insanity and this novel promises to be something very special indeed.

Basically; there's a new therapy being developed which keeps seriously mentally ill patients in a comatose state for months in the hope they'll wake up cured. While they sleep weird incidents happen in and around the hospital with a young doctor seeming to act as the catalyst for the strange activity. Does he stay? If he stays he might lose his mind but reap the rewards of a successful experiment. Does he leave? If he leaves he keeps his sanity but loses his professional integrity. There is a third option to be considered. Are any of the strange occurrences truly happening or are they a figment of an already disturbed mind? Not telling you.

Should have been such a good book but, unfortunately, The Sleep Room fails to live up to much of it's promise and is almost lacking in anything ghostly, chilling or dark. I'm not even sure about the relevance of the Sleep Room because it hardly features in the novel and that's such a shame. The psychiatric/clinical elements of the story are the best written and yet they're left mostly unexplored. I'm also going to have to add, and I hate being over critical, the story itself is so predictable I'd guessed exactly where the plot was leading me at the half way mark which almost killed the reading experience.

Tallis is a decent wordsmith and has talent. The quality of his writing, his charaterisation and dialogue are strong but I'm hoping he walks away from themes already done to death and finds his own originality in his next novel.

My 3* review represents the quality of the writing which isn't at all bad but I wouldn't go above 2* for my own personal reading experience.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of potential, with an excellent atmosphere behind it...just fails to deliver the ghostly horror goods, 20 Feb 2014
By 
Chris Hall "DLS Reviews" (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Hardcover)
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First published back in July of 2013, British author and clinical psychologist, Frank Tallis (aka F.R. Tallis)’s novel ‘The Sleep Room’ formed his second horror novel to be published (along with having a further six psychology / crime novels under his belt).

DLS Synopsis:
When the opportunity to work alongside Dr Hugh Maitland, possibly the most influential psychiatrist of their generation, came up, Dr James Richardson jumped at the chance. And with his strong academic backing and growing experience in the field of psychological medicine, Richardson was in with a good chance at securing the position.

And the interview couldn’t have gone better. Richardson was offered the position then and there – of which he immediately accepted. All that was left to do was relocate to the recently set-up psychiatric hospital, Wyldehope Hall, on Dunwich Heath in the remote depths of rural Suffolk. A hospital that looked after a total of twenty-four patients suffering from varying degrees of mental illness.

Due to Wyldehope’s particularly isolated positioning, Richardson would be required to take up fulltime residence within the hospital. A somewhat isolated existence compared with his previous life in London, and one which had eventually gotten to Richardson’s predecessor, Dr Benjamin Palmer, until he resigned from his post at Wyldehope Hall.

But the chance to work with the charismatic and world-renowned Dr Maitland was too good of an opportunity to miss out on. Especially considering the ground-breaking work and research that was being performed in the hospital. As Richardson is shown early on, located in its basement, Wyldehope has a unique care room for its most psychologically disturbed patients. Here, in a shadowy room dubbed ‘The Sleep Room’, Maitland had devised a way to maintain a constant state of narcosis for at least twenty-one hours of the day for six of his female patients. ECT would be administered to them on a weekly basis, with records taken to record the results of such prolonged sleep.

However, something doesn’t feel right about the set-up. The trainee nurse, Mary Williams, who spends much of her time looking after the sleeping patients, appears constantly on edge in the gloomy surroundings. And there is something noticeably wrong with the general atmosphere in Wyldehope. Something just isn’t quite right. And with things going missing, and other patients complaining of unexplainable happenings in the old building, Richardson feels that there is something more to it all. But what? And if it’s something beyond the explainable reach of science, he could well be risking his entire career if he were to announce it.

But as time goes by, the situation only worsens. The patients in the Sleep Room seem to be dreaming at the exact same time. And an unexplainable presence in Richardson’s room has him doubting his scientific background. Richardson knows he must act, or risk jeopardising the lives of those in his care. The question is how?...

DLS Review:
Set around the mid 1950’s Tallis’ supernatural psychology-heavy horror story is certainly one that basks in the period it sets itself within. Indeed other than the strong James Herbert feel to much of the tale, the story is also very much akin to a M.R. James, Charles Dickens or E.F. Benson type of ‘ghost story’.

Author Frank Tallis clearly plays to his strengths in the choice of subject matter that the novel is completely immersed within. Indeed, for those that aren’t all that familiar with the practices and procedures being explored during this era, these particular details alone are likely to be of quite some interest. And for another thing, they make for a darn creepy atmosphere for a psychological-cum-supernatural horror story.

Tallis’ writing style is very fluid and at times really quite compelling. Tallis clearly has a skill for storytelling. However, ‘The Sleep Room’ does suffer from some serious over-padding, especially around the midway section which sags quite noticeably. Furthermore, although the original premise for the novel and much of the idea behind the plot is brimming with unnerving potential, the tale never really manages to break the surface into ‘chilling’ territory. And that’s really where the novel falls short the most. It fails to realise the full potential of the supernatural horror it has within its grasp and instead ends up weaving an interesting but ultimately tame ghostly story.

That said, the characterisation throughout the novel is excellent. Our principal protagonist, Dr James Richardson, is a believable and likeable academic who is incredibly easy to sympathise with from very early on. Furthermore, Richardson’s developing relationship with one of the nurses, Sister Jane Turner, makes for a well-placed love interest. Indeed, the relationship between the two becomes quite a dominant sub story; adding a different side to the character of Richardson whilst murkying the waters of Richardson’s emotional ties with Wyldehope, his work, his career, his duty to his patients and the strange goings on there.

The constant smoking of cigarettes, the slightly reserved manner in which the characters interact and the out-of-date psychological experimentation, make ‘The Sleep Room’ what it is. There’s very much a feeling of being pulled into the tale and sucked into the unfolding mystery of it all. And that’s by far and away the novel’s strongest element. Alongside this Tallis has inserted in a handful of moderately interesting secondary characters, such as the intriguing patient, Michael Chapman whose hallucinations and delusions of persecution make for a colourful exposure to the general mental illness of the patients at Wyldehope.

All in all ‘The Sleep Room’ a reasonably engaging and mildly interesting read, with plenty of atmosphere and well-defined characters. Sadly, it lacks the punch of a chilling ghost story to really get the reader clawing through the pages for the next blood-chilling burst of adrenaline. And the novel ends on a twist-ending that feels far too ‘stitched-on’, as if it were merely a last minute afterthought, to really leave much of an impression on the reader.

The novel runs for a total of 376 pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I marvelled at the extraordinary capacity of the human mind to summon up scenes of horror", 6 Nov 2013
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Hardcover)
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"Something Has Woken " intones the blurb on the cover of F. R.Tallis novel "The Sleep Room.", and indeed there is an air of portentous dread residing in the pages of this atmospheric novel . However this is not necessarily a novel about ghostly goings on as the books jacket would have you believe.
Set in the post war period ,when Dr James Richardson is offered the chance to work for the renowned Professor of psychology Dr Maitland he is elated. Curious about the sleep induced therapy that Maitland has set up at the isolated and rather foreboding Wyldehope Hall in Suffolk ,Richardson also has his eye on the main chance that this opportunity will offer him with regards to his career. The sleep therapy where his patients will be kept asleep (for the most part) for long periods, being woken only to eat and complete their toilet needs has ties to the C.I.A and indeed seems to be the only part of the establishment that Maitland is really interested in. Richardson's unease gradually increases as he notices shared behaviour in the sleep room patients, while increasingly unsettling events take place elsewhere in the building, and other patients show increasing signs of instability.
F.R.Tallis does a fine job of creating a distinctive and doom laden chronology as things become more and more strange and unsettling . Richardson is a morally upright character, but none the less one whose eye always seems to be on the main chance with regards to his own self interest. I found the novel to be most engrossing and quite hypnotic and the gradual unfurling of events is done with considerable restraint , though I would have liked more descriptive action and unexplained goings on for the books last quarter.
The ending appears to have alienated many readers and I can understand this. It takes the book in an entirely different direction. I feel that the last chapter takes the narrative to far down one particular resolution and that it would have been preferable and more ambivalent to leave it at "And then I pinched myself again"
No matter, I would recommend "The Sleep Room" unreservedly .... If you do not care for the resolution then enjoy what has gone before for this is a fine somnambulant novel of some notable ambience, a psychological horror that ultimately tips too far in one direction. At least it is not predictable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Sleep Room, 7 Dec 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Hardcover)
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Dr James Richardson is delighted to get the chance to work with well respected Hugh Maitland, Head of the department of Psychological Medicine at St Thomas's. He is to work for a personal project of Dr Maitland's, set in an isolated location, Wyldehope Hall, deep in rural Suffolk. Dr Richardson has been told that his predecessor, Dr Palmer, left suddenly and Dr Maitland is keen to stress that he understands the difficulties of the post. However, Dr Richardson sees good opportunities for his career and, at first, is very positive and keen to make the best of things.

Wyldehope Hall treats patients with severe schizophrenia and depression. As well as these wards, there is the Sleep Room, where six female patients are being treated with combined continuous sleep, the latest drugs and electroconvulsive therapy. Dr Maitland is quite secretive about these patients, although details about the women are revealed gradually to the reader. However, Dr Richardson discovers there are links to the United States and possibly to research for the CIA.

This novel is set in the post-war years; the actual date is never stated, but I would guess late 1950's. It is certainly not a scary book, but it is very atmospheric and quite disturbing. The setting, the characters and the patients in the Sleep Room themselves, add to a sense that things are not quite right. There are odd events, noises and sensations that Dr Richardson is unable to explain away. The young nurse, Mary, who works in the Sleep Room at night seems unaccountably afraid and jumps at the slightest noise. Then, Dr Richardson discovers that the patients seem to be dreaming at the same time.... I have previously enjoyed the historical crime novels of F.R. Tallis and I liked this well written book, although it took a completely different direction from his previous work. Overall, a well written novel, with good characters and a creepy feel, perfect for winter evenings.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear, 13 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Sleep Room (Paperback)
Well where do I start? There's no denying this book is slow going, but the stories within the story I did find interesting, which is why I found it easy to keep going.
To me it felt like the author is the type of person that has thoughts and ideas that dance around in his mind all the time which would explain why certain ideas were started and just faded without fulfilling their promise, exactly like the book itself.
For me the author does have a way of writing that I find entertaining and is why I persevered till the end; which brings me to the ending and my response to it was .......WHAT! I can't believe any modern author would even think of using that dried up old ending one that was a cheat when it was first used anyway, and it was brought in so abruptly that, like other reviewers, I had to re-read the last few pages because I thought I might have literally lost the plot and misunderstood something. This author cheated his readers and didn't even do it well.
On to the sleep room - this book isn't about the sleep room!
Why 3 stars, well forgetting the ending and that it isn't about the sleep room and isn't even remotely scary; I quite enjoyed it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Unengaging, 24 Nov 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Hardcover)
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I'm afraid I didn't get on at all well with this book. It's well written and has its atmospheric moments, but it failed to grip or chill me and I found it rather tedious.

The main problem is that I found it almost comically packed with clichés. It's a chiller set in 1955, and at the outset we have a slightly dodgy-seeming psychologist, a small, claustrophobic hospital in an isolated location surrounded by thick mist and desolate marshland, hostile locals, disturbed patients, a sinister experimental treatment, unexplained goings-on, and so on and so on. It all felt straight out of a Hammer Horror B-movie to me and even the climactic and "shocking" ending seemed a familiar device.

I'm sorry to be so grumpy about it, but it really didn't work for me at all. Frank Tallis can write decent prose, but I often found myself rolling my eyes at what he was writing about. Others have enjoyed this more than I did, but personally I can't recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping chiller every bit as creepy as its cover suggests, 13 July 2014
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This review is from: The Sleep Room (Paperback)
THIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! A gripping chiller every bit as creepy as its cover suggests. It would be a solid 5/5 if the twist ending hadn't been obvious from half way through, but other than that I found no significant fault with it. Definitely one to make you want to sleep with the lights on for a while!
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The Sleep Room by F. R. Tallis
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