THE LITTLE SLEEP. By Paul Tremblay. Holt Paperbacks, March, 2009. 288 pages. $14.

His first novel, Paul Tremblay’s The Little Sleep debuts as a one-of-a-kind of neo-noir. Eager to mix a little bit of magic into a standard recipe, Tremblay hits the spot with a thrilling detective story underscored by his expertise with horror fiction and fantasy.

Situated on the South side of Boston, Tremblay’s story takes us into the ghastly life of Mark Genevich, an out-of-work, rundown private investigator. The novel opens with a disturbing confrontation between the PI and a new client, a woman by the name of Jennifer Times. From here on begins the PI’s desperate race against time, complete with murder, betrayal and family secrets. But this detective story interposes something else, a neat twist unlike any that crime drama can offer: Genevich is a narcoleptic. He drifts in and out of REM sleep. He suffers from catalepsy. Worst of all, he experiences hallucinations. Considering the frightful effect this disease has on the human condition, one can’t help but imagine that when it suddenly occurred to Tremblay that Genevich was to suffer from narcolepsy, he found the idea devilishly funny.

Tremblay is a contributor to such publications as Pseudopod and, so it’s no wonder that his first novel, though a crime story, has more to it than just twisted facts and cold murder. In the likeness of Deckard the Bladerunner mingling with the scum of the Earth, Tremblay regards his “hero” as a sad excuse for a human being.

The novel displays Tremblay’s indulgence in dark comedy and is full of cunning sarcasm and sometimes even crude humor. Still, with a touch of passivity and a whole lot of cigarette smoke, Tremblay paints a grim picture of a man desperately fighting against the disorder that plagues his life with madness. Unconventionally stark, the novel makes the case for Mark Genevich so utterly hopeless that one begins to feel something deeper then sympathy.

Cleverly, Tremblay dips his readers in and out of the world of facts and into the delirious mind of his unlikely hero. As Genevich desperately searches for clues for what may be the most important case in his meager career, the reader is forced to observe the fine line between what is reality and what is a figment of a narcolepsy-affected imagination.