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Sleepyhead    by Mark Billingham order for
by Mark Billingham
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Little, Brown & Co., 2011 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Mark Billingham's Sleepyhead introduces his rather disturbing series starring London Murder Squad Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, who alternately trusts and distrusts his own instincts on a case. Thorne is a policeman who cares about victims of crime, and feels personally responsible however events unfold.

At first police believe that a serial killer made his first mistake when they find twenty-four year old Alison Willetts still alive after her encounter with him. It's not much of a life though, as she has locked-in syndrome - she's 'almost certainly aware of everything going on around her', yet unable to move a muscle. Billingham does a fine job of showing how awful it is to be Alison, through her musings on her visitors and surroundings as she lies in her hospital bed.

Reluctantly assigned to the case, Thorne soon learns that Alison was not the perp's first failure but rather his first success - and he keeps on trying. It's clear, given the drugs and techniques used by the killer that he has some sort of medical background, and Thorne's intuition tells him that Dr. Jeremy Bishop is the one. This complicates his life. While pursuing the case, Thorne's embarked on a relationship with Alison's physician, Dr. Anne Coburn - and Bishop is her oldest friend.

As in his later escapades, Thorne defies his superiors and peers, always going his own way - and embroiling his best friend, gay pathologist Phil Hendricks, in trouble. Anglophile mystery fans will love Sleepyhead, a well plotted procedural with plenty of surprises for both its obsessed lead and for readers.

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