Title: The Sleep Detectives
Author: Matthew Bieniek
Format: Paperback edition by Matthew Bieniek
This review, in all honesty, is actually an older review of mine. It is not one that has ever appeared here, but was posted once long ago on my now deceased personal review blog. The reason it is being posted here, slightly updated to allow for the passage of time and new thoughts, is that due to a series of circumstances worthy of a fictionalization at some point when I’m really hard up for material, my previous blog is completely missing from the ether of the internet now, a vacant lot on the information superhighway. The author has asked more than once to see this review, so after scrounging up the document I originally posted, I have decided to make sure he- and the rest of the world- sees it here.
Set in 1983, The Sleep Detectives focuses on Tony, who is a regular run of the mill type guy who works in a grocery store. That is, a regular guy who has the ability to use his dreams to essentially go back in time to watch past events as they actually occurred. Using this strange ‘power’ to catch legendary concerts and such that he’s missed, Tony, with the encouragement of his two friends, Danny and Mike, decides to try to put this mental time travel to better use, to help others find things they’ve lost. What follows is the development of not only Tony’s ability, but also his growing pseudo career of uncovering secrets and finding the truth while he sleeps. Although this is not a high action adventure novel, Tony and his friends end up in a situation that places them and those they hold close in danger and have to decide if it is best to continue to use Tony’s gift for others or if he should go back to watching Jimi Hendrix in action.
The Sleep Detectives is an odd little book, and that is very good in this case. It is quite honestly as if the author has put a camera into Tony’s world and just so happened to catch an interesting situation, one that he continues to follow, much to the joy of the reader. Bieniek builds characters slowly, deliberately, revealing things about Tony and his buddies as necessary, not wastefully. The author carries this skill even further by giving a vibrant life to even the most rudimentary of supporting characters, such as the bad guys involved and Tony’s boss. This book is equal parts mystery peppered with the supernatural in a sense and slice of life/growing up in the 1980s. All in all, a pleasant experience with just enough unique to stand out.
As far as the writing goes, the author’s voice is strong overall. There are moments in the book that could be more intense, have more impact. Most of those relate to the actual danger that Tony and others find themselves in. It feels as if the author is trying to make those events seem as commonplace as the rest of the ‘slice of life’ aspect of the book. I understand that desire, but I think those scenes would have benefitted from a tighter narrative and more descriptive phrasing.
The Sleep Detectives definitely demands a 4 out of 5 pages from me. It is most definitely a book anyone interested in quirky action and characters to match would enjoy. Using my own scale, this book definitely gets 5 out of 6 bullets, only losing ground slightly during the scenes fraught with danger.