Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

‘Sleepyhead’ is the first book in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series of books. I read one of the later books in the series a while back and have decided to start from the beginning and read the series in order.

Several young women have been found dead from strokes. Strokes are fairly unusual at a young age, but three in a short space of time raises suspicions. A clever pathologist links the cases and discovers that the strokes have been deliberately caused. Then Alison Willetts is found alive and Tom Thorne and the rest of the team at first think that the killer has made his first mistake. Until they realise that Alison was the killer’s first success. Alison is now suffering from ‘locked-in syndrome’. She can think, see and hear but is completely paralysed. The body count continues to rise as the killer tries to duplicate his success.

It is obvious that the killer is a very skilled doctor and as Tom Thorne starts a serious relationship with Anne Coburn (Alison’s Neurologist) he also starts to suspect Jeremy Bishop (an old flame of Anne’s) of the murders.

Despite a complete lack of evidence, Thorne continues to follow Bishop to the point of harassment. He is completely obsessed. Meanwhile the killer taunts Thorne with personal letters and the rest of Thorne’s team think that he is going mad.

Finally everything is dramatically revealed.


The plot of this book was excellent and very original. I also enjoyed the way that the book was written – with three narrators – Thorne, the killer and Alison.

Thorne was a bit of a cliché – the divorced, heavy drinking obsessed loner and I thought he came across quite differently from the later Thorne books. But apart from this, I found the book enthralling (but also very dark). I’m interested in how this Tom Thorne will morph into the later Tom Thorne and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series – ‘Scaredy Cat’.


Book Published 2001


See a full list of books by Mark Billingham


Filed under Billingham, Mark, Book Reviews, Crime, Detective, Series Fiction, Thriller

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