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Saturday, March 8, 2014

SLEEPYHEAD (Tom Thorne #1) (audiobook) by Mark Billingham

Originally published in 2001.
Published HighBridge Audio in 2013.
Read by Simon Prebble
Duration: 10 hours, 32 minutes

Mark Billingham's Sleepyhead is set in London and features a serial killer with a twist. Rather than actually trying to kill his victims, the attacker is trying to paralyze them by pinching a spot in their neck for nearly two minutes in an attempt to cause a stroke in the victim's brain stem. The result, if done right, is a person who cannot do anything more than blink even though their brain is entirely functional. This is difficult and the result has been a slew of dead young women and one "successful" victim who is forced to breathe on a ventilator in a hospital.

Thanks to the inspired work of a coroner, the local police know what the attacker is trying to do - but they have no idea how to stop him. The star of the investigation is Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, a troubled middle-aged cop with his own demons. Due to a past failure, Thorne is driven to the point where he risks everything to find this attacker.

Sleepyhead was Billingham's first novel (this series now has a dozen novels) and as such it is has some room for improvement. Typically, new authors tend to skip details in an attempt to keep the plot moving. Billingham did the opposite here - some scenes included a stifling amount of detail that make the story drag. Billingham set out to set a somber mood and he successfully maintains it throughout, even to the detriment of the story.

The audiobook was read by Simon Prebble. I think the style of the book hurt Prebble's presentation. There were multiple characters that told the story from the first person perspective and there were no clues that the narrator had changed when the changes occurred. Sadly, Prebble chose not to change the voices of these characters very much so that they could be told apart instantly. I think that may have been on purpose - the book gives the reader no idea that the story is being told by another person, either. It just switches and the listener is left to try to figure out who is telling the story.

On top of that, there is a gigantic amount of British slang used throughout the book that gives it an authentic feel but sometimes lost this American listener. Combine that with the multiple, but often indistinguishable narrators and the slow spots and you can see why this can be a frustrating audiobook.

Note: I received a copy of this audiobook for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this audiobook 3 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne #1) by Mark Billingham.

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