Do you ever think about chapters? What functions do they serve?
They can be used to heighten suspense, to give the reader a break
in the action, to give the reader a place to stop.
Greg Iles, like most authors, wrote DEAD SLEEP in chapter form. I
don't know why, though. I was only a page or two into the bad boy
when I realized that nothing else was going to happen until I
finished this book. I was running over chapters, paragraphs, and
pages as if I had the steering wheel of a steamroller in my hands
and a road full of spiders in front of me.
Iles doesn't yet have much of a bibliography behind him --- six
novels now --- but no matter. He writes with the strong, confident
voice of an author who has been plugging away in the trenches for a
couple of decades. At the same time, there is no world-weariness in
his voice. And if you've read any of Iles's other novels, whether
BLACK CROSS or 24 HOURS or any other --- you already know that
those novels won't prepare you for DEAD SLEEP. Iles doesn't repeat
himself, doesn't phone in his work, doesn't work from a formula. He
just writes tightly woven novels that suck the reader in, novels
that compel the act of reading.
With DEAD SLEEP the compulsion begins with the opening sentence.
The second sentence seems at odds with the first, the third
heightens the contradiction, and by the fourth the reader is simply
lost in the wonder of reading this tale of a complicated, often
difficult woman on a single-minded quest. Jordan Glass is a
Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, the daughter of a legendary
photographer lost in the jungles of Cambodia during the Vietnam
war. Glass, in Hong Kong while working on a photo collection,
wanders into the Hong Kong Museum of Art to look at some
watercolors. She notices that some of the men in the museum react
oddly to her. While wandering through the museum, she finds an
exhibit of paintings titled "The Sleeping Women." Jordan realizes
two things almost immediately: the portraits are of women who are
sleeping the sleep of the dead; and one portrait, which appears to
be a painting of her, is actually a portrait of her twin sister,
missing from her New Orleans' Garden District home for more than a
Glass, already obsessed with the search for her sister, begins a
nonstop quest to uncover the trail of the origin of the portraits.
Sometimes aided, sometimes hindered by the FBI, Glass's search
takes her to New York, the Cayman Islands, and ultimately to New
Orleans, where a forensics study links the paintings to four
suspects. Each of the suspects is improbable in their own way; and
Glass herself is the target of terrible danger from a deranged
genius who has decided that one-half of a twin is not enough.
DEAD SLEEP could well be the suspense novel of the summer. This is
not to denigrate the other fine novels of the genre that this year
has produced; it is simply that DEAD SLEEP is one of those books
that is of a quality that stands apart from its peers.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011