Sleepy Head

by Mark Billingham

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Featured image for Sleepy Head

[I read this for a mailing list discussion and these comments are taken from that discussion; which means that they are out of context and contain spoilers.]

[on thorne]

I don’t think Thorne could tell the difference between “finding the killer” and “proving that the killer is Jeremy Bishop” but I did think we understood enough to make sense of his obsession. I think the paradox of having Bishop *have* to be the killer and yet setting things up so that he definitely couldn’t be worked very well and got the reader as confused as Thorne. I didn’t see Thorne’s one track mind as a character flaw, I knew there had to be some sense in the plot somewhere and so did he.

My only problem was that I hit upon James as a possible killer quite early on because there seemed to be a paucity of suspects if it really wasn’t going to be Jeremy so I was able to see through some of the plot devices but I wasn’t certain that Jeremy wasn’t guilty until the last minute. I thought it could end up being Jeremy plus accomplice and I did have Anne pegged for an accomplice for quite a while so I wasn’t really a star detective either.

I can forgive Thorne for getting things wrong, it was his book after all so I knew he was going to triumph one way or the other. I thought the degree of suspense was just right, I wasn’t hung on tenterhooks desperate for him to sort things out but I was turning the pages at speed to find out what would happen.

As to the soundtrack - I’m not much of a music person and I tend to have only the vaguest idea of what the artists mentioned actually sound like so this bit of books (and I do agree that it seems to be a really common thing in books lately) tends to pass me by entirely and doesn’t really tell me anything about his character at all.

I guess from the way the question’s posed that I’d best save my thoughts on the bits from the killer and victim’s viewpoints for another day?

[on alison]

Alison made the book for me. What should have been something really *really* depressing was given light and heart and humour. Yes, it was still really depressing everytime I stopped to think about it but I looked forward to hearing Alison’s take on events and her thoughts and I was so pleased when she managed to communicate with Anne.

I didn’t catch at the end if James explained the reasons behind his desire to leave women in this locked in state but I was glad when Alison chose not to take the life he had “given” her.

She was a huge factor in why I got so involved in this book; I liked Thorne but I was turning the pages to get to Alison’s parts.

[on james]

I think James’s logic went kind of over my head. I understood his malice stemmed from the car crash that killed his mother but I didn’t really get what he thought he was doing and I’m looking forward to reading answers from people who got under his skin more than I did. If he’d purely wanted to frame his father I would have understood but he also seemed to want to protect his father from the police which I didn’t quite get the point of. Was he just trying to attract some attention to himself and bring himself into the police enquiry in that way that some killers seem to like to do?

I liked the theme of parents/children throughout the book. There was also another of the victims Helen Doyle with her parents killing themselves and the fact that Alison, who was totally alone in her head, didn’t even have any parents to act concerned on her behalf seemed to stand out against this background. But these relationships didn’t really help me understand James.

The narrow field of suspects did lead me to consider James but I was never really convinced of his guilt until Thorne burst in on him. I had mainly come round to thinking it had to be a partnership job: Anne/Jeremy and James/Rebecca were two of the combinations I thought might work.

[on the police]

I answered question 5 on friday but it looks like my computer ate my answer. I said something along the lines of how I didn’t really feel this was a police procedural and one of the reasons was that the police characters apart from Thorne didn’t really stand out to me. Tughan and Dave Holland are the only two I can place. I hope to see more of both of them, I think Holland could turn into a decent sidekick and I want to see Tughan get his come uppance.

[on anne]

Although Anne was a major character in the book I find it hard to say much about her. She was present in so many roles in different parts of the book and apart from a while when I thought she might be partnered with Jeremy in some huge and sick bit of medical research I found her basically likeable.

[on the ending]

For me it was a very satisfactory conclusion and I can’t think of anything that would have been nearly as good an ending (but then I couldn’t imagine how this book was going to end at all anyway which is why I leave the book writing to people like Mark!). Alison got to exert control over her life and reject the course that James had chosen for her. Spot on. I’m looking forward to Scaredy Cat.