Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

The author, Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham, England.  He worked for a while as an actor, then later as a T V writer and a stand-up comedian.  The book, Sleepyhead was his first novel.  It was published in 2001 and was an instant best seller.   It introduces D I Tom Thorne, Billingham’s determined investigator.  Other books by Billingham are reviewed here, In The Dark,, Scaredycat, ‎‎The Dying Hours,…ark-billingham/ ‎.

ImageThe reader experiences the story partly through the investigations of D I Thorne and partly through the victim, Alison Willetts.  She is unlucky to be alive. She has survived a stroke, deliberately induced by a skillful manipulation of pressure points on the head and neck. She can see, hear, and feel; she is aware of everything going on around her. but she is completely unable to move or communicate. It is called locked-in syndrome.

This condition has been much discussed in the press recently , particularly in relation to Tony Nicklinson who suffered from the condition and fought to have the law changed to allow him the right to die.  He found the condition so unbearable.  His family supported his case, but the courts ruled against him.  He died of natural causes shortly after the decision. I apologise for that diversion, but it is an important case.  Let me return to the book.


The police believe the killer’s made his first mistake when he left Alison Willetts alive.  Then DI Tom Thorne discovers the horrifying truth: Alison is not  the mistake, the three women who are already dead are the errors.

Their killer considers this an acceptable margin of error and dismisses them. Thorne knows these victims are unlikely to be the last.  The killer is clever, and he gets his kicks out of toying with Thorne just as much as he is in pursing his sick fantasy.

Sleepyhead is terrific: the concept is as evil as it is simple.  It is a sinister, sophisticated thriller which imposes a twisted new take on the contemporary British crime novel. Impeccably plotted, remarkably assured, Sleepyhead a spectacular first novel.  I thoroughly recommend it and have read more of Mark Billingham’s work. I also met him at Bloody Scotland, Stirling, Scotland. He is a delightful person and very witty.




  1. Reblogged this on normanjkennedy.



  1. In the Dark by Mark Billingham | Valerie Penny's Book Reviews
  2. Scaredy Cat by Mark Billingham | Valerie Penny's Book Reviews

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