The Bram Stoker Award–winning author of Survivor Song and The Cabin at the End of the World “slices, dices, and spins the neo-noir in his own strange way” in his “fast, smart, and completely satisfying”* debut novel featuring a narcoleptic detective from Southie.
*Stewart O’Nan The Little Sleep is Paul Tremblay’s nod to Raymond Chandler starring a PI who nods off. Mark Genevich is a South Boston private detective who happens to have a severe form of narcolepsy, which includes hypnagogic hallucinations, like waking dreams. Unsurprisingly, his practice is not exactly booming.
Then one day the daughter of an ambitious district attorney and a contestant on the reality talent show American Star named Jennifer Times comes to him for help—or does she? A man has stolen her fingers, she claims, and she’d like Genevich to get them back. When the PI wakes up from what must surely be a hallucination, the only evidence that his client may have been real is a manila envelope on his desk. Inside are revealing photos of Jennifer. Is Genevich dealing with a blackmailer or an exhibitionist? And where is the mysterious young lady, who hopefully still has her fingers attached?
The detective has no choice but to plunge into what proves to be a bad dream of a case, with twists and turns even his subconscious could not anticipate. Chloroforming the hardboiled crime genre then shaking it awake and spinning it around, Paul Tremblay delivers a wholly original, wildly imaginative, gleefully entertaining noir mystery—guaranteed to keep you up all night, even if Mark Genevich won’t be joining you.
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"Mark Genevich has narcolepsy in the worst way. He falls asleep midsentence. He has vivid hallucinations that he can't always tell from reality. He walks around and has conversations in his sleep, often fooling others into thinking he's awake. He suffers from attacks of cataplexy, aka "sleep paralysis". And he works as a private detective, which for him generally means taking cases that consist of finding data on the internet. However, now he's been hired by a pretty young contestant on "American Star", who also happens to be the daughter of the local District Attorney. Only, he's not sure exactly what she's hired him to do. See, he was asleep through most of their meeting. But he has some pictures of her in various states of undress that were left on his desk, so he figures someone must be blackmailing her. Working on this small amount of information, Mark begins digging into the case, but soon he begins to question even the little he does know. He figures he must have stumbled onto something, though, because thugs are following him around and roughing him up.
This book's plot focuses on the bizarre case Mark Genevich has found himself tied up in, but the real focus of the book is the tragic figure of Mark himself. Disfigured in an accident at the age of 21 and suffering from narcolepsy ever since, Mark lives a shadowy half-life of what he calls "little sleeps", and tries to delude himself that he is self-reliant, and doesn't need his mother as a caregiver, even as she stays at his apartment multiple times a week and gives him rides anytime he needs to go anywhere. He covers his confusion with lots of snappy witticisms, but underneath, he's melancholy and often frustrated, and this case only adds to his stress level. Paul Tremblay does a great job of bringing the character of Mark Genevich to life, and arouses a great deal of sympathy for him in the reader, especially since the reader recognizes early on that there's no miracle waiting for Mark--he's stuck stumbling his way through life for the foreseeable future. Mark's condition is sort of a metaphor for the human condition, though, and I know that's a really hackneyed thing to say, but I'm serious. His struggles with the constant neurological urge to fall asleep, and all of the problems that come with it, are much more obvious and physical manifestations of handicaps and burdens that all of us carry throughout our life. The fact that Mark always finds a way to muddle through, to keep going in the face of some pretty intense setbacks throughout the book, make "The Little Sleep" somewhat of a positive, uplifting tale, even despite the persistent melancholy of its main character, and its dark tone throughout.
This book is an excellent new wrinkle on the classic hardboiled detective tale, with nuanced plotting, character depth, and profound emotion threaded throughout. Anyone looking for a 21st century spiritual successor to Raymond Chandler should check this book out ASAP."
Andrew (5 out of 5 stars)