I’m kind of a sucker for any novel or movie that Stephen King recommends. It may not always pay off when it comes to movies, but when it comes to good books, King has rarely steered me wrong. It’s because of King that I discovered one of my favorite authors, Laura Lippman.
I didn’t come to Greg Iles through King. I picked up his novel "Turning Angel" and was hooked immediately. Most Iles books are those that I’d classify as "books that own me" while reading them. I keep wanting to go and do other necessary things, but I can’t because I just have to read "one more chapter" to find out what happens next.
So, combine the fact that I already like Iles with a front cover blurb by King and I find myself wondering why I hadn’t read "Sleep No More" before now.
Set in Iles fictional town of Natchez, Mississippi, "Sleep No More" tells the story of John Waters. With his long-time friend Cole, Waters is part of an oil-drilling business that’s had some solid success. He’s married to Lily and they have a precocious daughter together. Their marriage looks great, but it’s been on a shaky ground since Lily had a miscarriage several years before and they haven’t exactly been connecting in a physical way.
Years before, Waters had a long romance with Mallory Candler, a beautiful woman who turned out to be a couple of tacos short of a combo platter. The romance took place in college and the couple aborted two unwanted pregnancies. This helped bring on some of Mallory’s less desirable traits and led to her stalking Waters for a period of years. She was killed several years before and Waters hasn’t forgotten her but has tried to move on with his life.
Enter Eve, a woman who claims she’s been possessed by the spirit of Mallory. She comes to Waters and tells him this. Eve is a local real estate agent who has a certain reputation around town. Is she looking for a new fling with Waters or is she telling the truth? Waters is convinced it is Mallory and enters into an affair with Eve/Mallory. (It seems that Mallory can enter the body of a new host upon sexual peak only).
If it all sounds like it takes a huge dose of suspension of disbelief to make the story work, it does. But the thing is that by ground Waters as he does, Iles takes a page from King or Richard Matheson and gives us an ordinary person facing extraordinary circumstances. Seeing how Waters reacts as the web slowly closes in around him keeps the pages flying, just to see what happens next. And Iles is willing to at least throw in a few things that are plausible reasons as to why this could be certain people in Waters’ life trying to mess with him.
In fact, half the fun of the story is trying to figure out which twist is the right twist and which are red herrings.
According to the critical blurbs, "Sleep No More" was recommended as a beach read when it was first published. And that’s exactly what it is. Iles has done some great stories and while this may not be his most profound or important, it’s one of the more enjoyable stories he’s told. Like a blockbuster, popcorn movie, don’t think too much about it and just enjoy the ride. You’ll be glad you did.