“Nothing is coincidence. Everything is connected.”
I haven’t read many of Tremblay’s books; in fact, the only other one I’ve read is A Head Full of Ghosts. I heartily recommend both, though they are understandably very different rides. I’ve never read classic noir by Chandler, Hammett, or Spillane so I can’t speak to how well of a homage Tremblay pays to them with The Little Sleep.
What I can say is that The Little Sleep hooked me immediately and drew me in to the point where I couldn’t stop reading. Our lead character, the narcoleptic private investigator Mark Genevich, is the epitome of an unreliable narrator. Some people might not find this engrossing, seeing it as a device for the trope of “it was just a dream” over and over again. However, in my opinion, Tremblay executes this twist on the classic PI character with masterful skill. As readers, there are times we are faced with wondering if something really happened, especially as the opening scene in the book is a hypnagogic hallucination that presents itself as a twisted vision due to Genevich’s condition. Tremblay is good about clarifying when things are or aren’t real, unless Genevich himself is experiencing the confusion and can’t decide. There are times when looking back it should have been obvious when he was experiencing a hallucination to me, but in the moment I blew right past it in my earnest quest to get to the truth. That being said, the book is no less enjoyable for these moments.
Personally, I think giving his detective an affliction like narcolepsy is so much more interesting than a drinking problem or old war injury. It inherently comes with its own limitations – for instance, Mark isn’t supposed to drive, and due to the same accident that caused his narcolepsy, it’s painful to walk for long periods of time. And running? Forget it. But these all work together so well to create this battered image of a character whose life has not even remotely gone the way he’d hoped or planned. There are times in The Little Sleep when I wanted to smack Mark for not sharing details with his mother, or for sharing too much with a person of interest, but it’s so understandable. He’s human, and he feels like a failure, and this case is weird and twisted but it’s also his chance to prove to himself and others that he’s capable.
The language is definitely Tremblay’s take on classic noir talk, or at least based on examples I’ve heard. However, it doesn’t come off as stereotypical or hamfisted in any way – instead, it just reads naturally as Genevich’s voice. There are some funny moments, even in surprising places that do a great job of breaking up the tension without ruining the moment, and it just blends seamlessly together for a fun ride.
If you love crime fiction or mysteries at all, definitely give The Little Sleep a read. It’s relatively short, but a fair amount of fun and hopefully Tremblay has more of Mark’s stories to bring us in the future.
GBC Reader Reviews