Mark Billingham is undeniably a master of his craft. In his most famous creation, DI Tom Thorne he’s created a relatable, flawed and troubled character who strives to do the right thing, but who keeps getting thwarted by real life, bad luck and some very bad people. This is Tom’s 18th outing, and he’s much more flawed and troubled than he was back when we first met him in Sleepyhead (some of you may remember the TV show shown in 2010 with the wonderful David Morrissey playing the Titular character before he went off to Hollywood to kill zombies).
One of the reasons for those troubles (and one that instills real fear into our brave DI thanks to his previous actions with a scalpel, amongst other things) is back; and he’s on the hunt for revenge. It’s here I have to mention that some knowledge of previous Thorne books is useful – it’s not essential as the author covers what you need to know in summary where needed, but it definitely adds to the jeopardy and the dynamics if you have read some of the previous books in the series. In all honesty, I can’t remember if I have read the books that reference this particular character and I still really enjoyed it, so make of that what you will.
There’s a fairly early reveal in this one that leaves you wondering why so soon? However all becomes clear as it’s revealed that there is more to this scenario than you may have first thought. Mark Billingham has a real talent for misdirection – you can feel at times like you’re being led down the garden path whereas you’ll later realise that the answers were hidden in plain sight, but somehow you don’t see them at time. There’s suspicion everywhere and it might even leak onto those you think are unquestionably loyal – the tension ramps up as the end approaches, and it all culminates in a frantic, tense final act.
It’s hard to say too much without giving away spoilers so I won’t focus any more on the story, but the characterisation of Tom Thorne makes for a brilliant character to read; obviously the author knows him and the other main characters inside out by now, meaning that the spiky personality of Phil Hendricks and the good heart of Nicola Tanner all add to the bonding and the camaraderie of this little band of people striving to catch bad guys and not go crazy in the process.
The humour gets as dark as the subject at times and this adds an element of brevity to the murderous tone, which sometimes can spill into (very) gory mutilations and scenes of torture and could definitely put you off your tea. So don’t read this one at dinnertime unless you’ve got a stomach like Phil Hendricks and can polish off a full breakfast minutes after finishing a messy autopsy. You know who you are.
Thanks to the online book club The Pigeonhole for letting me read an early copy of this. A good read, full of suspense and suspicion and a must for Thorne fans.
Published June 9th 2022 by Sphere
About the Author: Mark Billingham (from his Amazon author page)
Mark Billingham is one of the UK’s most acclaimed and popular crime writers. A former actor, television writer and stand-up comedian, his series of novels featuring D.I. Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel Of The Year Award as well as the Sherlock Award for Best British Detective and been nominated for seven CWA Daggers. His standalone thriller IN THE DARK was chosen as one of the twelve best books of the year by the Times and his debut novel, SLEEPYHEAD was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. Each of his novels has been a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.
A television series based on the Thorne novels was screened in Autumn 2010, starring David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a BBC series based on the standalone thrillers IN THE DARK and TIME OF DEATH was shown in 2017.
Mark is also a member of Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. Performing alongside Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville, Doug Johnstone and Luca Veste, this band of frustrated rockers murders songs for fun at literary festivals worldwide.