Sleepyhead is Mark Billingham's first novel and the first in his Tom Thorne series (which is now on book 13). The thing is though, it doesn't feel like a first effort. D I Thorne is the wrong side of 40, marriage finished, lives alone, sometimes rubs his colleagues up the wrong way etc. etc. but in no way is this a run of the mill police procedural novel.
Three women have been murdered but the fourth victim survives. The method - manipulation of the victim to induce a stroke. It turns out though that the first three women were (in the murderer's eyes) accidents. The fourth was the one he got right. He was actually trying to get the victims to a point between life and death. Because of the damage done to the fourth victim she has 'locked in' syndrome, is wired up to machines in hospital and is unable to give Thorne and co any help whatsoever.
You don't get to know who the killer is until the end and there is enough to keep you guessing (I changed my mind probably 3 or 4 times along the way) and the story is gripping enough that it kept me up reading way past the time I should have been asleep and looking to get the next in the series ready for when Sleepyhead was done with. I sometimes get bored with detective series but can't see that happening here.
What I especially enjoyed here was the way the surviving victim kept having internal monologues which certainly changed the mood of the book. Although she couldn't communicate much (especially in the early days) with her doctors, nurses and Thorne the monologues let you see things from her point of view, at times sad, reflective, resigned but also gossipy, chatty, girly. For someone who couldn't really do anything but lie there in a hospital bed she was probably one of my favourite characters. This in itself puts Billingham up there with the best.
For a first novel this is a very good effort - not perfect but heading in the right direction. I shall certainly be looking out for the rest of the series (I'm on book 2, Scaredy Cat already)