The Sleep Room

Written by F. R. Tallis
Review by Mary F. Burns

Readers of Frank Tallis’ Max Liebermann mystery series can rest assured that Tallis is just as good a writer when he’s not writing about Max and 1906 Vienna. But The Sleep Room, nonetheless, sticks to the psychological/medical themes Tallis obviously loves and is very good at. The plot, set in the 1950s, unwinds slowly as we follow young psychiatrist James Richardson to the dark, wind-lashed fens of Suffolk by the sea, where he’s taken on a prestigious post at Wyldehope Hall, an ancient mansion turned psychiatric institution. His charismatic boss, Dr. Hugh Maitland, is famous for his experiments and pioneering therapies on mental patients, and his latest project involves keeping patients asleep for weeks, maybe months. It all starts to unravel as James begins to experience odd encounters in the dark and, step by step, closes in on the mysteries at Wyldehope. This is a thrilling, suspenseful novel about the human mind and as such, is reminiscent of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw in its presentation of questions about what we know, how we know it, and the deep, dark places the human psyche can inhabit. I hope we see more like this from Tallis soon. Highly recommended.