You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Friday, March 4, 2011


The Little SleepThe Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How many physical and mental challenges can a private eye face? Raymond Burr was wheelchair-bound in Ironsides, and I remember a self-explanatory series called The Blind Detective. Monk has OCD, and the character in Eric Garcia's novels is a tyrannosaurus in human drag. What's left?

Paul Tremblay has made his hero, Mark Genevich, narcoleptic, the result of a car accident where he should have been wearing a seat belt. Narcolepsy seems to be a disorder that would take you out of the private eye game, especially since Genevich has all the worst symptoms, He not only falls alseep, he also suffers elaborate hypnogogic hallucinations that allow him to experience conversations and encounters that simply never happened and cataleptic seizures that leave him paralyzed. In one scene he is unable to tamp out his own flaming pants leg. But the type of detetcive work he does involves mostly searching for runaways spouses or tracking down real estate deals on the internet. No stakeouts and certainly no driving. (Actually there is one exceptional driving incident that leaves you rooting for both our hero and everyone else on the road between Cape Cod and South Boston.)

Then into his life comes Jennifer Times, the daughter of the Boston D.A. who just might have a chance at winning the American Idol style program most characters in the book are fixated on. But then again, she may not even exist, the nude photos she leaves behind look like her but are too old to be her, and Genevich's missing father is somehow involved. Tremblay may feel that his not-so-sly reference to The Big Sleep  frees him from constructing too convincing a plot, but he keeps things moving with a genuinely likable main character whose best friend is his mother, along with the usual array of goons, crooked politicians, smart-mouthed cab drivers, and a plot where you know early on that people are going to learn things they would rather not about family members.

Narcolepsy goes to the heart of detective work in a way being paraplegic or a tyrannosaur really can't. Detectives gather clues and figure things out, but Genevich has to contend with unwanted ten minute naps and hallucinations, both real hindrances to fact gathering. Trembly has already written another Genevich novel and he could be onto something here.

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And just in case you thought I made these other books up

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