Review: Tom Grieves – Sleepwalkers

Sometimes it’s useful to be reminded why I started reading crime fiction in the first place. Over the years, as I’ve read more books and discovered new writers and sub-genres, I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties of crime novels. Characterisation and location play an important role in what I choose to read, as does plot which I’ve noticed has become more and more complex, away from the traditional whodunnits of the classic crime era. However, what I once loved about crime novels when I started reading them as a teenager, was their sheer readability. I used to pick up a book and read it all the way through and look up and a couple of hours had gone by. Now that is no longer possible with the demands of home and work, and also, I thought, because books have increased in length so significantly. However, last week I read three books in a row that had that ‘unputdownable’ factor and one book, in particular, I read straight through (with a couple of tea stops). This was Tom Grieves excellent début novel Sleepwalkers.

Ben is an ordinary family man who keep experiencing violent dreams and has unexplained gaps in his childhood and more recent memories. His wife, Carrie, is supportive and reassuring but he is plagued by the conviction that something is wrong in his psyche. As his paranoia increases he is forced to confront the veracity of his own identity. Toby is a schoolboy also experiencing violent dreams and missing pieces of his memory. His parents repeatedly change his school rather than confront his problems. However in his latest school, his teacher, Anna, decides to take an interest in his case and the complicated lives of Ben and Toby suddenly converge.

The book starts out in traditional thriller mode, with a strong sense of the sinister and the dream and memory elements of Ben and Toby possibly having a supernatural cause. Happily (without giving too much of the plot away) this doesn’t turn out to be the case and the book explores instead the idea of a society within a society where a mixture of Orwellian forces and medical advances make it possible for a smoke and mirrors deception on a grand scale. It’s a very difficult book to review in detail without giving essentials of the plot away. However, I can say that although I’m not up on scientific processes I thought the whole concept fascinating and compelling.

The book is predicated on the idea that no-one is really who they seem. The writing and narrative style reminded me of the books of Michael Marshall (Smith) and I think this novel would appeal to his fans. Grieves, according to his biography, has worked in television as a script editor and producer and this novel started out as a script for TV that he couldn’t sell. A quick scan through Goodreads and Amazon reviews reveal that many people, as I did, picked up the book and couldn’t put it down which gives an idea of the compelling nature of the story. I hope that  this will be the start of a successful novel writing career for Grieves.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, Quercus. The book has also been reviewed at Bookbag and Book Geeks.

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20 thoughts on “Review: Tom Grieves – Sleepwalkers

  1. Sarah – Oh, this sounds terrific!! Thanks for sharing it and for your fine review. I know what you mean too about today’s novels having more involved, even convoluted plots. I must think about that and do a post on it. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  2. Yes, I’ll definitely check out this one. I very much liked the first Michael Marshall (Smith) book though liked his subsequent books progressively less. Thanks for highlighting this book, had not (knowingly) heard of it before and I need something good for my queue!

  3. It feels like ages since I have read a crime novel with that un-put-downable factor, having just looked at the other reviews on Amazon and Goodreads this definitely seems like one I should pick up sooner rather than later. Thanks for the review.

    • Yes it’s funny that the reviews all say the same thing about the readability of the book. It’s unusual that so many reviewers have the same take on a novel.

  4. This does sound very interesting although not the type I would usually read. Usually good to try something different and challenge my assumptions. I like exploring the idea that no one is really who they seem.

  5. I think to be honest this won’t be going on to my wishlist. Nothing against the author, but I’ve probably got too many books already – and this one just doesn’t leap out and grab me! I perhaps see the comparison to MM or MMS as a slight negative. I used to read him religiously, probably his first 8 or 9 books including short stories and just kind of stopped enjoying him, for some long-forgotten reason – similar to Maxine’s comment above.

    I agree with the comment regarding book lengths. Sometimes less is more, when I’m deciding what to read next and I’m weighing up my options, often I’m choosing the shorter option, mainly on the assumption that I can read 2 books of 300 pages in the time taken to read 1 of 600, which doesn’t always follow. That said I’ve just finished Frredom which was 597. Do authors have a tendency to deliver longer books as their career progresses?

    • I’ve certainly noticed an increase in length Colman both in crime fiction and in mainstream fiction. Hilary Mantel, for example, I read for years and haven’t read the latest because her books have got longer and longer. Ditto John Irving. I still have his last book to read and I noticed he has a new one out. I basically need to be snowbound for a week to get through those two books alone.
      In terms of crime fiction, again books have definitely got longer and someone I know who works in a bookshop who told me that customers will put books down if they are too short as they feel that they’re not getting value for money. A sort of price/page ratio. What can I say? If that’s where we have ended up then it is very sad indeed. In my teenage years I read Christie, Sayers, PD James, Ruth Rendell and I could easily finish a book in a couple of hours. I have continued to re-read these authors and the stories still hold up so I think they have stood the test of time.
      That said, some longer books really are excellent, such as Deon Meyer’s ‘Trackers’ which I reviewed recently. The quality of the writing is the ultimate test.
      Will be interested to hear what you have to say about ‘Freedom’.

  6. Sarah, I think there might be something in the price/page ratio and the concern with value for money. I have put the odd book back down previously because of length (shortness of), but I’m more likely to put it back if it is too long in my opinion. When I first started my job with my current employer (1991), I was under-utilised and tucked away in my own office and kind of forgotten about, I read 200 books that year and never had a day sick off work….Elmore Leonard, Robert B Parker, early James Lee Burke – a book a day!

    Michael Connelly – I’ve read all of his except the last two Fifth Witness (TBR pile – 530 pages) and The Drop – waiting for the paperback sometime soon, His novels used to be around 350-odd pages, slowly crept up to mid-400s and now always seem to be in excess of 500+, sometimes touching 600. I don’t think I enjoy them anymore now than when I first started him and they were 200 pages shorter, probably less in truth.

    Funny that you mention John Irving – as he was the author I thought of most when reading Franzen’s Freedom.
    I enjoyed it, but perhaps not as much as I had hoped for. I will try and get some incoherent, babbling thoughts penned in the next few days!

  7. Pingback: The Best of October’s Reading « crimepieces

  8. I read this because of your intriguing review, Sarah, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. I was immediately drawn into the plot and didn’t see the end coming at all. A great read!

  9. Pingback: Review: Tom Grieves – A Cry in the Night | crimepieces

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