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"The Sleepwalkers" should come with a surgeon general's warning. Not because there's smoking in Scarlett Thomas' latest (there is), but because it's such dark, twisted, pervy fun that it might dent the psyche.

A blurb comparison, and a very apt one, to the HBO series "The White Lotus" (and to Patricia Highsmith but I'm not convinced of that) hints at what is to come — rich folks behaving abominably in an exotic location — but it is no preparation for Richard and Evelyn's doomed Greek island honeymoon, paid for by his mother.

"'A little treat,'" she had said, "her voice booming oddly like a master of hounds in the tiled entrance hall of [Richard's] childhood home."

Even before the second paragraph, when Evelyn mentions the matrimonial moment when she and Richard both knew their love was cursed, it's obvious bad things are afoot. A preceding "Contents" page presents a list of items that suggest foul play: "a) Letter 1, torn, partial, burn marks, blue ink on hotel notepaper" or "e) Note 2, slight bloodstaining, turquoise ink on paper doily."

As you may have guessed, the bulk of the plot is revealed in letters — really, really long ones — and scribbled-on scraps revealed in the previously mentioned list. It's an old-fashioned conceit, one my text- and email-addled brain wanted to rebel against. Who, in this day and age — "The Sleepwalkers" is a contemporary tale — would write pages and pages and still more pages under stressful circumstances? No one. But Evelyn does, as does Richard.

But Thomas is sly. She knows her structural choice might be questioned. "So feel free to skip ahead if you like," Evelyn writes to Richard, in an aside that's meant for the reader, too. "That's the beauty of a letter, after all."

Believe me, you won't want to do what Evelyn suggests.

The desire to know easily trumps any pesky thoughts about how information is conveyed because so much is mysterious right out of the gate — from Richard's best friend Paul and his girlfriend, who accompany Evelyn and Richard during the first week of their honeymoon, to the woman who runs the Villa Rosa, where they stay for the second week. Especially mysterious is the story of a couple the islanders refer to as "the sleepwalkers," who stayed at the Villa Rosa the year before and drowned.

Much of what happens is filtered through Evelyn's perspective and it's clear she might not be the most reliable narrator, but it's also clear her husband may have a tendency to gaslight her. It doesn't help her case that she tends to deviate toward gruesome cannibalistic imagery, such as when she describes a tulip painting in the Villa Rosa: "Its petals were the color of meat, but dried and curled, like dead tongues."

To be sure, "The Sleepwalkers" skirts the unsavory, but Thomas isn't going for subtlety. Hers is a Grand Guignol sensibility that any "White Lotus" fan will get — and applaud.

Maren Longbella is a Star Tribune copy editor.

The Sleepwalkers

By: Scarlett Thomas.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 289 pages, $27.99.