Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves

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Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Sleepwalkers will excite, thrill, play with your mind and cleverly transmit paranoia by logically extrapolating the stuff of everyday as the TV series Edge of Darkness did in the 80s. You'll never think of your TV set in the same way again for a start.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: August 2012
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-0857389800

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Ben is the devoted proud father of two young children, the happily married husband of Carrie and a skilled car mechanic. He has all the makings of a wonderful life that would actually become one if he could just get a decent night's sleep. The problem is that he's haunted by vivid, violent nightmares. Meanwhile across town, 15 year old Toby also has nightmares and, on top of this, a body scarred with abuse, a fact his teacher, Anna, is determined to do something about. His parents have the appearance of people who love him but, where child abuse is concerned, that means nothing. Anna cares enough to get involved, not realising that it's an involvement that could cost her life. Indeed, as all three of them are about to find out, not all nightmares end on waking.

This may be Tom Grieves' debut novel but if you've watched The Bill, Hornblower or, more recently, Being Human then you've probably seen his work. These are others' creations to which he added episodes but Sleepwalkers, a TV idea he couldn't sell, is all his own. TV's loss is definitely the world of publishing's gain as the resulting novel is outstanding.

The idea behind Sleepwalkers is us – the British population, and our attendant apathy. In the novel this is the greatest weapon the government has and it may have a point. We moan about changes or authoritarian intrusions but don't take decisive action because, on the whole, we don't believe we can do anything. The governmental thin end of the wedge is now part of our daily lives. For instance on the whole there is now an unsettling silence surrounding the use of CCTV cameras and monitoring the nation's email. Both these factors of daily life in the UK could be deemed as being for our benefit but to what other ends can they be used? In fact, Can everything in our lives actually be as it seems? Sleepwalkers is populated by a small, dedicated group of people who need to find the answer, guided by an author who knows how to develop people as well as he develops plot.

Tom Grieves convincingly charts Ben's descent from just needing to sleep to self-suspected madness. Ben's paranoia leaps off the page and ensures that the reader isn't going to put this book down many times before it reaches its surprising conclusion. Anna is effectively our surrogate: the onlooker who becomes a participant, pushing through to the conclusion as much in our place as for herself. This is one of the areas in which the author is skilfully devious. With the exception of a huge twist for Ben, we discover things at the same time as the characters, increasing the chance of our mirroring their emotions. For instance, I defy anyone not to empathise totally with Anna's frustration as events are twisted to impede her progress. Talking of skilful writing brings Toby to mind. Accurately portraying any 15 year old would be a challenge. Mid-teens is a confusing and confused time of conflicting emotions, but add the internal and behavioural effects of his brittle shell of identity being broken and stripped away, and it's going to be a mite more difficult. However, not only does the author manage this, he does it with clarity and, again, reader involvement.

It may be said that the story takes certain elements from two films. (I'm not going to tell you which in case you don't spot them.) This won't matter an iota though; both are mere peripheral shadows almost knowingly utilised to make you think you know what's coming as your predictions and expectations are then repeatedly twisted in a deliciously disorientating game.

Whether Sleepwalkers is 'just' excellent entertainment or a fictionalised wake-up call, only time will tell but one thing is for sure: Tom Grieves won't need TV approval in future, just keep the novels coming.

I would like to thank Quercus for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this then we suggest Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson, another psychological thriller that will tinker with your expectations.

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Buy Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves at


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