cover image She Sleeps

She Sleeps

Ray Russell. PS Publishing, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-78636-190-5

Record-store clerk Lawrence Moore, the hero of this cleverly wrought crime thriller from British author Russell (Bloody Baudelaire), is living in Sheffield, England, in 1989 when rock-’n’-roller Richie Young proposes recording some of Lawrence’s verse set to music. Unknown to Lawrence, the record label uses a photo of his long-lost girlfriend, Sally, for the album cover, and the image, in conjunction with lyrics to the song from which this novel takes its title, revives memories of the year in which Sally disappeared, a teacher committed suicide in the woods behind Lawrence’s school, and another student was killed in a hit-and-run accident. Lawrence is mortified at the upset the press coverage provokes among locals still sensitive to these tragedies, even as Richie and the band do what they can to exploit them for publicity. But though Lawrence has long thought of the incidents as separate “jigsaw pieces that don’t necessarily relate to each other,” renewed interest in the Man in the Wood—an urban legend that supposedly ties all three together and whose name the band appropriated for the album’s title—makes the coincidence of their occurrence seem increasingly less random. Russell, a composer himself, lards his narrative with references to the late ’80s rock music scene. Lyrics written for the imaginary album and included at the back of the book give this sinuous and unpredictable mystery a firm foothold in the music culture that it depicts. (Sept.)