My Rating: 5 stars
I had really high hopes for None Shall Sleep; it had glowing recommendations from several people I trust, and the whole concept sounded right up my Hannibal-loving alley. And it didn’t disappoint! In fact, it’s one of my favorite books of the year so far. Of course, since this is a book involving serial killers, there are quite a few trigger warnings, including: gruesome murders, gore, sexual violence, and more. It definitely falls on the more mature side of the YA genre to the point where I sometimes wondered if it should be marketed that way. The main characters are college-aged, and several of them are deeply traumatized while the other is a psychopath. It’s not a book for younger teens or the faint of heart.
Our two protagonists, Emma Lewis and Travis Bell, are recruited by the FBI Behavioral Science Unit to interview teenage serial killers. Emma is an eighteen-year-old serial killer survivor. Her ability to escape when the killer held her hostage made her the sole survivor, something that haunts her throughout the book. Emma is what every other “strong female characters” wants and fails to be. She’s smart, resourceful, and strong both physically and mentally. But she’s also flawed and, most importantly, allowed to be vulnerable. She suffers from PTSD, and Marney doesn’t treat it as an afterthought or something that can conveniently go away when the plot requires. It is a part of Emma’s character, and it’s present in every scene she’s in. Travis, a US Marshall candidate whose father was killed by one of the interviewees, is an absolute sweetheart and so incredibly likeable. I adored the friendship between him and Emma and how they support each other unconditionally through the whole ordeal.
Then we have Simon Gutmunsson, our teenage Hannibal Lecter. AKA, the best part of the book. Every moment he’s on the page is bone-chilling. Much like Lecter, he’s intelligent, charming, refined, and a complete monster. He also has an excellent dynamic with Emma during their interviews. She’s aware he’s manipulating her, yet she allows him to. These scenes are reminiscent of the interviews between Lecter and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, but it never feels like a rip off. Rather, it’s Marney paying homage to a classic while still doing her own thing. I hope Marney turns this into a series because I want to see more of these characters. I particularly want more of Simon’s relationship with his twin sister, Kristin. They are especially fascinating because even though Simon is a psychopath who slaughtered yuppy teenagers in his social circle and artistically arranged their bodies, he adores his sister. Does it seem like a healthy relationship? Absolutely not. And that’s why I want to see more of it.
As much as I adored this book, it does require some suspension of disbelief. I certainly hope the FBI isn’t recruiting college kids to interview murderers. Emma and Travis also manage to force their way into an open investigation with a surprising amount of ease, and almost everyone just goes along with it. Again, I really hope it would be a little more difficult than that. But I was perfectly happy to just go with it because both Marney’s characters and writing are so engrossing. It’s truly a book I couldn’t put down.
Overall, None Shall Sleep is a horrifying and thrilling read perfect for fans of Hannibal, Criminal Minds, Mindhunter, and any other serial killer show. And it has the added bonus of a well-written female character who is both strong and vulnerable. It’s one of my top books of the year, and I don’t see that changing in the next few months.