Title: The Sleep Room
Author: F. R. Tallis
I will start this review by stating that I bought this book because it was cheap and I liked the cover in my local tescos. I hadn’t heard of the author or the book before hand, and just thought it was worth a shot. I’ve bought books like this before and really enjoyed them.
The story is set in the 1950s around Dr. James Richardson, a promising young physiologist, who is hired by one of his idols, Dr. Maitland, to run Wyldehope Hall. Maitland is conducting a controversial experiment where patients are being kept asleep for extended lengths of time. While he is there, Richards starts to discover that things aren’t quite what they seem.
The concept is intriguing and could be very good. The rest of the review will have spoilers as it’s one of those books that can’t be reviewed without spoilers. You’ve been warned.
There is ghost activity throughout the book, but while this starts out as interesting and looks like it’s going to build up, nothing happens. A few things move, a patient is horrifically murdered. Which is where the problems start off. There is a lot of build up which does not get the pay off it deserves. I didn’t care about the patient when I found that he had died. While his character stands out as one of the more developed it is still lacking and there is no emotional connection when he dies.
The book is also about 100 pages too long for what it is. A lot of it just didn’t seem necessary. It was slow in places. That being said, I did read it rather quickly and found it easy to read. The writing style was undemanding and really suited the genre.
The opening of any ghost/supernatural/horror is vital in building up the story. The opening descriptions can make or break a book. Tallis does a reasonable job of doing this in his book, but the late train, the fog, the worried locals, the moving from London and the familiar to the unfamiliar, getting picked up by a housekeeper who seems quite distant. All of the techniques seem quite similar to one of my favourite books, Dracula. For someone who has not read Dracula I’m sure the opening would have been brilliant, but it was just too similar to be effective in its own right.
One of the best things about this book was that I genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen next. I wanted to know what the ghosts were, what was going on in The Sleep Room (That room wasn’t mentioned anywhere near enough to justify naming the book after it), why did Richardson’s predecessor leave so suddenly? It’s why I kept on coming back to the book, despite not really connecting with the characters and passages being quite slow.
The ending was where everything fell apart. I could have forgiven this book for all of its flaws and given it a 3 star rating, but then the ending. There is a big spoiler here. But if you’ve seen/read Shutter Island you already know it. Richardson is actually a patient, and he was dreaming about being a doctor. Yes, Tallis committed the biggest sin in writing, making the narrator wake up 2 pages before the end and then offering one of the lamest twists I’ve ever read.
I wouldn’t recommend this book, because it was bland and there are plenty of better ones out there. While some of the writing is good, and there were a couple of interesting sections. (One where a patient is chanting the rhyme “Row Your Boat” over and over is quite good, until he starts repeating “Life is but a dream” which straight away told me the ending, especially after the narrator takes a note of it.)