21 February 2010

A strange hard-boiled detective


so today i finished my read of Paul Tremblay's The Little Sleep. The title, of course, is an homage to The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler's first novel featuring the detective Philip Marlowe. Tremblay's detective is Mark Genevich who lives in Boston, not L.A. He also suffers from narcolepsy, with symptoms that range from falling asleep in cabs to having intense hallucinations to automatic behavior. How can a detective, how can any person, operate when what they see may not be real and there are gaps in your life that you don't even know exist?

Genevich's normal cases involve research and internet surfing, which minimizes the effect his condition has on his work. One day he gets a visit from an American Idol star who claims that her fingers have been stolen. Genevich later realizes that part is one of his hallucinations but there are real pictures on his desk of a naked woman who looks a lot like the star. Genevich starts trying to piece his case together before he can even start on solving it. He can be pretty philosophical.
Someone at one time or another wrote all those letters but, unlike their bodies, their armies of letters live on, like swarms of locusts bearing long-dead messages of happiness or doom or silliness.
Tremblay has a good, solid style. Part of why i'm not a huge fan of the noir detective stories is that the detective always seems to know so much more than the reader. In this one, Genevich is confused because of his condition and he's not ahead of the reader at all. The mystery isn't a standard type either. also, even though Genevich is an unreliable narrator, he's not trying to trick the reader. I felt for him; narcolepsy has moved to second place (behind blindness) on my "shit i don't want to have" list. I liked this one but wouldn't recommend it if you don't like noir. a 5 from me.

As i was pulling these other opinions, i saw this book is nominated for a Stoker award. Neat! Others' opinions: Birdbrained Book Blog, Follow the Thread.

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