Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Little Sleep Review

The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay

From the back of the book:

Mark Genevich is a South Boston PI with a little problem. He’s narcoleptic, and he suffers from the most severe symptoms, including hallucinations that wreak havoc on a guy who depends on real-life clues to make his living. Clients haven’t exactly been beating down the door when Mark meets Jennifer Times, who walks into his office with an outlandish story about a man who stole her fingers and leaves behind a couple of risqué photos and many unanswered questions.

Mark Genevich is narcoleptic. And he doesn’t just fall asleep at odd times. He also has vivid hallucinations, loses control of all his muscles and becomes paralyzed, and sometimes he looks like he’s awake when he isn’t and still manages to do things like take notes so no one even notices. It’s a very interesting concept. And leads to some major complications when it comes to solving a case. Mark can never be sure if what he remembers actually happened. He is missing important pieces of information that were passed on to him while he was incapable of hearing them. He is trying to solve a case without even knowing what the case actually is. And guessing at what goes in the gaps leads him into trouble. And on top of all of that he tends to fall asleep at inopportune times. Which all adds up to a very interesting story. I like a flawed hero. I like that he isn’t super smart or super observant. He makes mistakes and pays for them. He really has to work to get anywhere. The case turns into a battle for Mark, not just against a shadowy enemy but against himself and his past as well. Mark does tend to fall into self pity but he also uses self deprecating humor that stops him from becoming whiny (most of the time anyway) and you root him on. When I first read what this book was about I thought it was going to be funny. It isn’t. There is some humor, but it is definitely not a comedy. It is too gritty for that. Even lines like ‘My cigarette is almost dead. I know the feeling well’, ‘For many narcoleptics, laughter is a trigger for the Godzilla symptoms, the ones that flatten Tokyo,’ or ‘The photos and film reunited and it feels so good,’ that could tend to go goofy are pulled off by the deadpan delivery and dark tone and tension of the book. It has a noir feel to it and definitely harkens back to Chandler. It has thugs, mysterious women, friends who aren’t what they seem, old secrets coming back to haunt people, witty banter (it could have been wittier but was pretty good), and a smart mouth detective. There were even times when you weren’t sure Mark was going to win. And in the end you aren’t really sure that he did. If you like noir mysteries this is definitely worth a look. I found Mark a compelling hero and would like to see his next adventure.

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