First line: "Just an hour before my wife was murdered, I pulled into a long line of vehicles waiting outside of our daughter's elementary school."
Tom Starks is a young community college literature professor whose life is turned inside out the day his wife is brutally murdered. Left alone to raise his adopted daughter, Julie, Tom's nightmare intensifies when the man convicted of killing his wife is released from jail three years later. Tom's wounds are still fresh and his grief still intense. He is determined to see justice done, even if that means hiring an assassin. If the courts won't make the man pay for his sins, Tom will act as judge, jury and executioner himself.
But Tom learns that doling out justice isn't a nice tidy business. The circle of Hell he found himself in from his wife's murder pales in comparison to the lower ring he enters when his assassin bungles the job and comes after him and his daughter.
I'll Sleep When You're Dead has some major strengths as a novel and it has some major weaknesses. E.A. Aymar depicts a man blinded by the grief brought on from his wife's murder. It's hard not to feel compassion for that. But Tom's self-absorption with this grief makes him a less empathetic character, especially when he seems to prioritize his own grief over that of everyone else's, including his young daughter Julie.
Tom seems devoted to Julie at times and at other times he comes across as a man who'd rather be freed from the burden of the pre-teen girl, not of his own loins. From one vantage point this might be attributable to his uncontrollable grief--Tom's done nothing healthy to deal with the despair stemming from his wife's murder. From another point, it casts Tom in a shallow light, more like the evil step-dad than the all-protecting father.
Aymar builds the reader's awareness of Tom's state of mind through flashbacks and comically inserted visits from Tom's wife's spirit. In addition he creeps in with several scenes from Tom's classroom where his students are studying Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. The lessons the students learn about Dumas' symbolism parallel Tom's plight. These individual pieces are all good contributions to Tom's character, but the building stage consumes over half the book and the action of the plot doesn't pick up until late in the novel. This helps to build the sense that Tom is wavering over his decision to hire a killer but it also slows the momentum of the novel considerably; for the first half of the book readers are wondering if it was shelved in the wrong genre section.
While not unusual for a first novel, the language and writing often came across as awkward and forced. Instead of flowing naturally and causing the reader to be swept away in the story, the mechanics were obvious.
E.A. Aymar has a great concept for the first book in his Dead Trilogy, I'm just not sure the execution of the idea was as strong as it should have been.
I'll Sleep When You're Dead is available in trade paperback (ISBN: 9781626940857) from Black Opal Books.
My post today is part of the TLC blog tour for I'll Sleep When You're Dead. You can check out the other bloggers who are participating in the tour and see their reactions to this novel as well.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work does not involve this tour or any other tour I would agree to be a part of here at the blog. Nor does my work with them obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.