Nonfiction November Readalong – The Restless Sleep

nonfiction november readalongs


Today, for the Nonfiction November readalong, Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) and I will be talking about The Restless Sleep, while Becca (I’m Lost in Books) and Katie (Doing Dewey) will be talking about Cleopatra.

The Restless Sleep is about New York City’s cold case squad and the struggles they face daily to solve long unsolved murders in New York. Horn structures the book by interweaving stories of how the Cold Case Squad came to be and the stories of four long-cold cases and the cops who try to solve them. Horn states early in the book that she is determined to give voices to the people whose lives ended too soon, who didn’t have a chance to leave their mark on the world. She looks at the case of a young couple murdered with possible drug connections, a series of murders associated with the mob, the murder of a young woman from Georgia, recently divorced, and the murder of a young girl in Queens.

This book is essentially a snap shot of what the Cold Case Squad looked like in 2003-2004, just a few short years after 9/11, which was still affecting the day-to-day life of all cops. I’m sure a lot has changed in the years since the book was published and that was hard to ignore. The police politics and the parts of the book that discussed how the Cold Case Squad operated were much less interesting than the parts of the book that covered actual cases and how they’re solved. It was hard to keep each cop straight in the narrative and I found the narrative structure to be jarring. It was difficult to focus on any one part of the story when it would jump from an individual case to talking about police politics to talking about another case.

I struggled with Horn’s tone throughout the book, which starts out as very informal, almost as if she’s mimicking the hard language and tone that she thinks cops have. This eventually fades, or I got used to it as the story went on, but it still stood out to me as I was reading.

The cases Horn picks to illustrate the work the Cold Case Squad were poignant. She approaches the victims with compassion, when other people might not. Many of the cold cases in New York are people who the world has deemed expendable. Many of them are criminals themselves. Horn wants someone to remember them and I think she does a good job painting fair pictures of the victims and their murderers, if they’re known. At the end of the book, two of the cases are solved and two remain cold. It was frustrating not to have that closure on those two cases, but it was a great way to illustrate the real work the Cold Case Squad is doing.

If it weren’t for this readalong, I’m not sure I would have finished The Restless Sleep. The subject is interesting, but I just found the structure of the book and Horn’s tone to be distracting.

So, I have to know, what did you think?? Am I totally wrong here? Or did you run into some of the same issues with The Restless Sleep?

7 thoughts on “Nonfiction November Readalong – The Restless Sleep

  1. Nope- I had the exact same issues as you, especially in the beginning. I thought she was trying to mimic the language in crime fiction as well and found it a bit jarring. Once she really got into the four cases I found the book much more interesting but I agree that the structure of the book was a little stilted. I finished this one earlier in the month and wondered how everyone else would feel about it- I’m glad to see that we have similar thoughts concerning it and that it wasn’t just me having issues with it.

  2. I found the way that the cases were broken up to be frustrating. There were so many people in each one that I lost track. I do, however, remember the horrifying details of the cases (OMG, the children of the murdered couple).

    Ultimately, I think that the author needs a more urgent point or anchoring theme to wrap up this depressing book than “organizational bureaucracy is preventing cases from being solved.” The fact that the reader doesn’t get full resolution serves that point, but it made me feel directionless. What is the reader supposed to do with that besides shrug and sigh?

  3. It was soooo hard to deal with the structure of the book. Sometimes it felt like a chapter would end abruptly, I would turn a page, and it would be something totally different that I had to adjust to. Other than that, I loved learning about the squad – it was fascinating!

  4. I have trouble with true crime books for some reason. I’ve never figured out what exactly it is that bothers me – is it the fact the scary stories are not stories at all? Is it the technical language of the science behind the crime units? Cold cases interest me so I was hoping this would be an interesting read. Not sure if I would like an informal police procedural tone to it.

  5. Great review- I just read this book last week. It was definitely the most garbled book I’ve read in a while- I was frustrated and thought it needed LOTS of editing. But it was still a really interesting read so I am glad I picked it up.

  6. I think you’re right on the structure, it’s not totally obvious, and the fact that a lot of the book is names makes that even more difficult. I also agree with you on the cases — I think the victims are the people she cares most about, and you can tell that in the story. I think she’s also pretty generous to the detectives, given the bureaucracy they’re working under. I’m sorry you didn’t love this one, but I liked reading what you thought of it!

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