Mark Billingham, a former television comedy writer, has, since written ten best-selling crime novels featuring DI Tom Thorne – well, sort of ten, as Thorne also appears in a small role in Billingham’s apparently standalone thriller, In The Dark. I say standalone as the lead character in that book, Helen Weeks, shares the spotlight with Thorne in this one. So those of you naughty people who skipped that one, go back and read it. Not that you need to, but it is rather good.
Anyway, back to this one. On the way to work, Helen is taken hostage by her newsagent, who has one demand. The detective who worked on the case that sent his son to prison – where he apparently committed suicide – has two days to find out the truth behind his son’s death. That detective? Tom Thorne, obviously.
I’ve enjoyed the Tom Thorne series a lot, but it has had its ups and downs – never worse than “a good read”, but when it has frequently been “excellent” or better, those books were a little disappointing. So how does this one stack up?
Very simple – it is outstanding. One of the best of the series and, after From The Dead, a real return to from, in my opinion.
It delivers on every count. As a thriller, it is, at times, edge of the seat stuff. The scenes in the newsagents are suitably tense, and the feeling of Thorne’s race against time keeps things moving. Billingham wisely makes it clear early on that there is indeed something bigger behind everything – there wouldn’t be much of a story.
The mystery element is strong as well, and the driving force behind events is guessable, but not easily so. I did work it out, but felt quite clever doing so, so I guess that makes it a nice puzzle.
The characters remain true to form and it’s nice to see, after being in a relationship that seemed to be slowly disintegrating, Thorne’s love-life takes a step forward, as he starts the book newly single. His development over the series has been interesting to read – some ups and quite a lot of downs – and needless to say, the status quo has changed by the end of the book by more ways than one.
I’m not going into more details, as it would spoil some of the plot twists, but if you have enjoyed any of the previous books, then this is recommended highly – it’s possibly the best of the bunch.