After a traumatic accident some years ago, Mark Genevich is left with a brain injury that resulted in narcolepsy. While a more than inconvenient health problem, it’s made worse given his choice to become a private investigator. We pick up when Mark is approached by a Jennifer Times, the daughter of a prominent Massachusetts District Attorney, with a request to identify who stole her fingertips.
Sometime later, Mark awakens to find an envelope containing photos of Jennifer in, shall we say, compromising positions. Given Mark’s inability to often separate reality from a waking dream, he isn’t quite sure what to believe when it comes to Jennifer’s initial request nor the photos. Did she drop them off? Or did someone visit him during his slumber?
Or was Jennifer ever there at all?
I thought this was a pretty inventive idea for a P.I. We’ve often seen unreliable narrators in the past, but rarely have we seen one who isn’t sure what’s real and what’s a hallucination. Because of Mark’s narcolepsy, he exists in a dream-like state where the edges of reality are often blurred. He does his best with what he’s given and because of his dismal outlook on life, he’s equipped with loads of snark. This all mixes together to create an entertaining, albeit sometimes frustrating experience.
If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway, author Paul Tremblay looked to Raymond Chandler’s iconic character Philip Marlowe for inspiration. Tremblay’s style takes a lot from Chandler with short, staccato sentences that are both blunt in execution and rife with simile. It’s a bold move because Chandler is a tough writer to try and imitate. The few that tried to continue on with Chandler’s Marlowe series certainly couldn’t do it and I’m not sure Tremblay can either (although, I’m not sure if that was his true intention). Then again, Chandler is my absolute favorite writer, so I may be biased.
There’s enough here to this character for me to want to pick up the next book in the series (and to date, the only other novel featuring Mark Genevich). Tremblay seems to have moved primarily into horror, but The Little Sleep proves he definitely can write within the mystery genre. I look forward to checking out his other spookier work.