The year is 1996 and seven-year-old Kieron Coyne has vanished while playing with his friend in the woods. With an eyewitness stating that he saw the child being led away by a man, Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne knows that time is against him if he is going to find him alive. With a mole in the ranks, however, feeding information to the vulture-like journalists, how many more people are going to find themselves collateral damage?

For long-time Mark Billingham fans like myself, this is the book we didn’t know we wanted until we read it! Twenty years since the first Thorne book, we have now been taken back to where it all started, giving us an insight into the early life and career of the detective.

Mark Billingham transported me back to the summer of 1996, with references to the sport and popular culture of the day. Memories of Euro 96 came flooding back, the belief that the ‘thirty years of hurt’ could finally be over swiftly followed by the inevitability of a loss on penalties against the Germans! It’s strange to think that a book set in 1996 could now be seen as historical, but this is exactly what it is, the methods of policing showing how quickly time has moved on.

Knowing what happens in previous (or should that be future?) books, it was good to see Thorne with his parents and also witness the relationship he currently has with his soon-to-be ex-wife. My favourite parts, though, had to be the first meeting with Phil Hendricks, and how quickly this developed into the strong friendship that they still have today. It was fascinating to see Hendricks, who we know as a confident, straight-talking man, struggling to tell Tom about his sexuality.

Cry Baby has a well-written, readable plot, with enough dodgy characters thrown in to make you really think about who the guilty party could be. With nods to police corruption and the role the press have in cases such as this, Mark Billingham definitely has another hit on his hands. Long may Thorne reign!

With thanks to Little Brown and to Net Galley for my copy of Cry Baby.