St. Martins / 320 pages / February 2001
Been reading my reviews for long? Then you know that on the invisible list of my favourite authors Charles Wilson occupies one of the very highest slots. Should you have any doubts about why, Deep Sleep will blow those reservations away. Of course, at the same time, it will blow you away, so strap yourself down before you open the book. Or, perhaps you should make yourself comfortable; you may not be able to stop at bedtime. When the acknowledged master of plotting is at the controls you are just along for the ride.
Wilson has something a bit different in store for us this time. In Deep Sleep he’s introduced us to his greatest character, yet. Great in scope and history than any human could ever be is the looming presence of the swamp. Wilson has portrayed the bayou area of Louisiana so vividly and in such depth that this little town emerges as a character like you have never known. Intriguing, enticing, just the right blend of attraction and menace. For those who have never experienced that rich region of America, this is a prime chance.
In this thick atmosphere a murder has taken place and you just know more gore is on the way. Detective Mark French, a man trying to forget his past, is the investigator on the case. As he struggles with his own problems he fights to uncover the truth behind the strange goings-on in the secluded, little town. Before he can even get started, French meets up with the latest addition, a quirky and alluring young doctor who has come back to her old haunt to sub for another doctor–and, inevitably, become embroiled in the case.
A wide range of characters are sketched in in Wilson’s light keystrokes, leaving readers room to make up their own minds about good, evil, and the masses in between. The most fascinating human character is a creature many might consider less than human, but he is the most vulnerable and, perhaps, the most humane of the lot. Boudron is severely deformed — always a gamble to employ in a novel — but the perfect component of this story. Boudron’s full story is revealed in Wilson’s perfect balance of compassion and brutal frankness. A more tragic character would be difficult to uncover in modern literature.
Deep Sleep is the finest in a long line of novels. Wilson’s combination of absorbing plot, intoxicating locale, and a parade of unique characters make for a tale as irresistible as chocolate truffles, but so much more satisfying.
Pick it up. Don’t put it down until the last page. Yes, that’s a typical Charles Wilson novel — anything but typical.