His first three victims ended up dead. His fourth was not so fortunate... Alison Willetts is unlucky to be alive. She has survived a stroke, deliberately induced by a skilful manipulation of pressure points on the head and neck. She can see, hear and feel and is aware of everything going on around her, but is completely unable to move or communicate. Her condition is called Locked-In Syndrome. In leaving Alison Willetts alive, the police believe the killer made his first mistake. Then D.I. Tom Thorne discovers the horrifying truth; it isn't Alison who is the mistake, it's the three women already dead. "An appropriate margin of error" is how their killer dismisses them, and Thorne knows they are unlikely to be the last. For the killer is smart, and he's getting his kicks out of toying with Thorne as much as he is pursuing his sick fantasy. Thorne knows immediately he's not going to catch the killer with simple procedure. But with little more than gut instinct and circumstantial evidence to damn his chief suspect, anesthetist Jeremy Bishop, his pursuit of him is soon bordering on the unprofessional. Especially considering his involvement with Anne Coburn, Alison's doctor and Jeremy's close friend. Thorne must find a man whose agenda is terrifyingly unique, and Alison, the one person who holds the key to the killer's identity, is unable to speak...
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It's rare for a young woman to die from a stroke and when three such deaths occur in short order it starts to look like an epidemic. Then a sharp pathologist notices traces of benzodiazepine in one of the victim's blood samples and just traceable damage to the ligaments in her neck, and their cause of death is changed from 'natural' to 'murder'.
The police aren't making much progress in their hunt for the killer until he appears to make a mistake: Alison Willetts is found alive and D.I. Tom Thorne believes this error will enable them to track him down. But it was the others who were his mistakes: he doesn't want to take life, he just wants to put people into a state where they cannot move, cannot talk, cannot do anything but think.
When Thorne, helped by the neurologist looking after Alison, starts to realise what he is up against he knows the case is not going to be solved by normal methods - before he can find out who did it he has to understand why he's doing it.Review:
The art of inducing fear in a reader via the printed page is a speciality of only a few skilled craftsmen. Mark Billingham is such an author, and Sleepy Head is such a book. The blurb on the jacket warns that we are in for a disturbing experience and that is precisely what we get: "He doesn't want you alive. He doesn't want you dead. He wants you somewhere in between".
The killer who Billingham's protagonist Tom Thorne is up against is a particularly creepy specimen: he has savagely killed three victims but his fourth, although alive, is perhaps not so fortunate. She has undergone a deliberately induced stroke and although all her senses are intact, she is totally unable to move or communicate. This hideous condition, called Locked-in Syndrome is, however, quite possibly the killer's first miscalculation ... or is it? Soon the dogged Thorne (given to distrusting his own abilities) is playing a cat-and-mouse game with a psychopathic killer. And the brilliant and sadistic killer is just as interested in leading Thorne a merry dance as he is in fulfilling his degraded obsessions.
All characterisations here are spot-on, even the killer (although one wonders just how many more hyper-intelligent psychopaths readers will be prepared to take) while the British setting is handled with intelligence, the horrific set pieces with real élan:
His head moved up, through the hole and into bright white light. He blinked quickly to adjust and opened his eyes. Thorne's last thought, before his body turned ice cold and began to shake quietly, was that he'd been right to be afraid...-- Barry Forshaw
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Book Description William Morrow. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0066212995 100% satisfaction money back guarantee. Bookseller Inventory # 6013238
Book Description William Morrow, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0066212995
Book Description William Morrow. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0066212995 In NEW, unread book in excellent condition. No nicks or tears on dust jacket that has clean, straight edges. MoNeY Back Guarantee!. Bookseller Inventory # M-4-90
Book Description William Morrow, 2002. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "Dear Detective Inspector Thorne. What can I say? Practice makes perfect. And don't you just envy her that perfect.distance? I invite you to consider the concept of freedom. True freedom. Have you ever really considered it? I'm sorry about the others. Truly. I shall not insult your intelligence with platitudes about ends and means but offer in mitigation the thought that a massive undertaking often has an appropriate margin of error. It's all about pressure, Detective Inspector Thorne, but then you'd know all about that. Seriously, though, Tom, maybe I'll call you sometime.Mark Billingham's arresting debut novel "Sleepyhead, an international bestseller, is a mesmerizing, psychological thriller. Tense and unnerving, this menacing tale of obsession is as scathingly witty as it is bone chilling, and it introduces a stunning new talent in detective fiction.Alison Willetts is unlucky to be alive. She has survived a deliberately induced stroke, and although she can see, hear, and feel, she is completely unable to move or to communicate. In leaving Alison alive, the police believe her assailant has made his first mistake. Until Detective Inspector Tom Thorne discovers the horrifying truth: Alison is the psychopath's first success; the three women he killed before her were the mistakes. "An appropriate margin of error" is how their killer dismissed them; his true intention was to leave them just like Alison: put to sleep for the rest of their natural lives. And Thor. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0066212995
Book Description William Morrow, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0066212995
Book Description William Morrow, 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110066212995
Book Description William Morrow & Co, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 2002. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. New Hardcover. Never Read. 1st Edition-Stated. 1st Printing-Full # Line. Not price clipped. Not a remainder. Dust Jacket has 2 small crinkles. Book is BEAUTIFUL. COLLECTOR'S COPY. Bookseller Inventory # 001510
Book Description William Morrow. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0066212995 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW4.0022022