SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS is a departure for Eric Jerome Dickey,
as most of the novel is set in England. Usually his books have an
urban feel to it, often taking place in Southern California but
also switching to other big cities such as New York. Characters
from previous novels do show up (a Dickey trademark); in this one
the standout familiar character is "Arizona," who plays a role in
the life of Gideon, a contract killer.
Gideon has just murdered a famous rap singer in Florida for a fee
and has fled to London because he knows things can get ugly soon.
What he doesn't know (yet) is that there is now a hit on HIM. The
story of Gideon's life as a professional hit man starts with the
introductory chapter, in which the reader becomes acquainted with
Gideon while he is on the verge of killing a highly prominent
evangelist. The scene is detailed, gritty and filled with tension,
and the dialogue between Gideon and the minister is fast-paced and
There are two very important women in Gideon's life: Thelma, who he
loathes with a passion and remains a mystery for a good portion of
the book, and Arizona, who he feels is the love of his life. Gideon
"picks" his name after the minister lay dying on the floor, and as
he looks at the Bible next to the man, the contract killer whispers
"The reverend was right. Every man needed a name.
People needed to know who to praise.
Or who to fear.
My name would be Gideon."
Fast forward to Gideon on an airplane headed for London. He is
contemplating his latest kill (the rap singer Big Bad Wolf) and is
surrounded by passengers who stand out for one reason or another.
He doesn't know who to trust or who to fear. One is an overly
chatty young actress, anxious to meet up with her boyfriend, who is
in the London version of "Rent." Another is the opposite in
temperament --- quiet, mature, in tears and dressed in black ---
and Gideon is attracted to her, although he can't block out the
young actress from his mind.
Also on board is a mysterious man with a broken nose who seems to
exist mostly in the background. As the story progresses, however,
the reader will realize the important role he plays where Gideon is
concerned. Their lives almost parallel one another, as both men are
in the same line of work. But what motivates each of them is quite
different. The man with the broken nose wants to prove he's as good
as his father, whereas Gideon feels that this is what he was taught
to do from an early age --- though he blames it all on the woman
who "helped" him get to where he is today.
What surprised me about this book is the amount of depth given to
the character of Gideon. He could have remained a one-dimensional
killer, whose sole purpose is to create action and tension in the
novel. But there is a lot more to him as the reader will learn.
This is his journey from his days as a child living in a broken
home, to his screwed-up marriage and children, to his career as a
hit man and his reasons for becoming one.
SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS is the first of a two-part novel for
Dickey. The second, WAKING WITH ENEMIES, releases in August 2007,
and I'm eagerly waiting for it. Both books are stand-alones, but
those who read SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS are going to want to pick up
WAKING WITH ENEMIES.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton (Ratmammy@lofton.org) on January 23, 2011
Sleeping With Strangers