Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves REVIEW

The cover of Sleepwalkers may scream Generic Supernatural Thriller, but don’t be put off. This is a book that thrives on confounding expectations.

Ben is a family man. He’s got a wife and kids and a job, but he’s also plagued by violent dreams. Every night they seem more real – and more disturbing. He’s not the only one. 15-year-old Toby is equally troubled. Could they be true? And is someone messing with their memories?

There are hints of both the Bourne series and Philip K Dick (though it’s closer in tone to Verhoeven’s Total Recall than Dick’s “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”). Switching between first- and third-person narratives, what starts as a creepy tale of one man slowly losing his shit soon turns into something much grander.

Grieves’s pedigree as a writer for Being Human (he penned two scripts for series four: psycho ghost episode “A Spectre Calls” and Adam’s return, “Hold The Front Page”) shows in some strong characterisation. As Ben discovers a natural talent for extreme violence, he’s consumed with fear about the sort of man he used to be. Likewise the “villains” are complex (even occasionally compassionate) people trapped in a bizarre situation.

Unfortunately, Sleepwalkers does lean slightly towards cliché. There’s a maverick conspiracy theorist who helps to unpick the mystery, and a sinister company (actually referred to, non-smirkingly, as The Company). While it’s a reasonably smart book, there’s little new here. But it’s still a fast-paced, thoughtful and at times moving thriller that you won’t want to forget.

Will Salmon

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