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Tom Thorne

Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham

DC Alice Armitage is investigating the murder of a patient on a psychiatric ward. In a facility where security is paramount, she must try to discover how this was able to occur and also who could have possibly been able to carry this out. Could it have been one of his fellow patients? One of the members of staff? An outsider who has managed to gain access? Alice’s work is cut out, not least because the detective isn’t exactly on the case – she’s one of the patients in the ward.

I loved the premise of this book and found Alice a fascinating character. Despite traumatic events in her past placing her in the psychiatric unit, she is convinced that the police are not doing their job properly and so uses her skills to conduct an investigation of her own. Feeling that she has identified the killer, she uses her contacts in the outside world to assist, only to find her theory derailed several times.

Despite the setting, Rabbit Hole is packed with dark humour as we meet a plethora of characters, each given a nickname by Alice. Some of her fellow patients are an absolute joy, their well-described quirks making it easy to visualise what life was like in this unit.

For fans of the author’s Thorne series, you will be pleased to see that there are a few cameo appearances of characters you may recognise. I particularly liked the subtle Phil Hendricks reference quite early on in the book.

There are plenty of twists and turns along the way with numerous red herrings thrown in for good measure. The ending was not expected with part of it making me question everything I had read! This is a great standalone from Mark Billingham, an author who I don’t think has ever written anything less than a brilliant book.

With thanks to Little, Brown and Net Galley for my copy.

Cry Baby by Mark Billingham

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.

 

Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham

To the outside world, Sarah is just a normal single mum, juggling her home and work life like the other mums in her circle. She craves more though, something that will excite her. Meanwhile, DI Tom Thorne is investigating the death of a woman who, although appearing to have committed suicide, seems to be have been driven to it by a man who preys on vulnerable women. A man who Sarah is about to become acquainted with…

I have been a huge fan of Mark Billingham for many years, ever since reading Sleepy Head, the first Tom Thorne novel. Now, eighteen years later, Their Little Secret is the sixteenth Thorne book in a series that is showing no signs of losing its touch!

What we have in Their Little Secret is an incredibly clever plot. Sarah, to all intents and purposes, is a normal mum, her life revolving around her son, Jamie. There are a few little hints that she is hiding something but I was not prepared for what exactly this was! I loved the way the author developed her character to the point where I found my opinion of her at the end of the book was completely different to what I felt about her at the start!

Thorne’s experience really comes through in this book when he gets a hunch that there is more to the suicide of a woman than meets the eye. Not being able to explain what it is, and with his colleagues including Nicola Tanner less than interested, he is vindicated when the suicide case leads him to a seasoned conman and murder. Thorne is a great detective and I always feel that he comes across as a very real character. His relationship with his best pal, Phil Hendricks, is always a highlight in these books and there are certainly some great moments here.

Their Little Secret is a masterclass in how destructive relationships can be and how we don’t always know someone as well as we think we do. With several twists along the way, this was one of those books that I did not want to put down, reading it in a day. I think this may have become one of my favourite Thorne books and if this is a series you haven’t yet read, I can recommend all sixteen!

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

Asked to investigate the spate of cat killings around the London area, Tom Thorne is, initially, nonplussed. With further thought, however, he begins to wonder if there could be more to this case than meets the eye. Could this be a killer’s first step towards the taking of a human life or have they already begun their reign of terror? Working, once again, alongside Nicola Tanner, she has another case of her own to investigate – the murder of a young man and the links to the drug Spice. With few clues to help them, Thorne and Tanner will soon find themselves in danger as they try to prevent an escalation in both cases.

Tom Thorne is, by far, one of my favourite fictional detectives and I always look forward to the next book in the series. In The Killing Habit, we see Thorne tasked with trying to stop a serial killer before they begin, working on the theory that many serial killers start their ‘career’ by killing animals. He soon has another theory, wondering if the cats could be getting killed in the ‘down time’ between the human kills. This was a fascinating story line and even though I did work out who the killer was, I did enjoy the thrilling culmination.

The other main plot is very topical in several ways. We see the problem of drugs in prison, in particular the rise of ‘Spice’, which has become much more prevalent in recent years. It is easy to see how difficult it is for these men who, desperate to become clean on their release, find that they are indebted to the dealers from their time inside and so find themselves involved in further criminal activities.

The Killing Habit is another great read although it didn’t have the same impact as the previous book in the series,  Love Like Blood. Also, I wasn’t quite sure about the ending: I do enjoy a good twist, but I think I would have preferred the story to have been tied up neatly.

Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

LoveLikeBloodWhen DI Nicola Tanner’s partner is killed at her own home, she enlists the help of DI Tom Thorne to catch the culprits. Convinced that the murder has occurred as the result of a case Tanner has been working on, Thorne soon finds himself drawn into the disturbing world of honour killings as he embarks on a hunt for a pair of contract killers who he suspects have killed before.

Love Like Blood is the fourteenth of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne books, a series that is showing no sign of losing its touch. Never one to shy away from emotive issues, Billingham deals with probably the most controversial to date with the subject of honour killings. We find out quite early on in the story that the perpetrators are mercenaries who, with the aid of a go-between, are killing and disposing of people whose families feel have brought shame upon them. This potentially explosive topic is dealt with in a sensitive manner and the author has obviously done extensive research on the subject, drawing his inspiration from the real-life murder of Banaz Mahmod in 2006.

In Nicola Tanner, we have a worthy accomplice for Thorne – a woman who, despite threats on her life, will stop at nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice. I had to admire her tenacity, even if at times I feared for her safety! For me, though, the best relationship throughout the Thorne series is the one he shares with the tattooed, pierced pathologist, Phil Hendricks – two men who, on the surface, appear to have nothing in common but who are the best of friends. It was interesting to see how well Tanner and Hendricks got on and hope that we get to see more of Nicola Tanner in future books.

There are several twists in the story that make you cast doubt on some of the characters, keeping you interested right until the end, making this a highly recommended book.

With thanks to Net Galley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC.

 

Thorne at Christmas: A Short Story Collection by Mark Billingham

51-hzthgjflThorne at Christmas is billed as a collection of two short stories featuring Mark Billingham’s Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. In Underneath the Mistletoe Last night, Thorne, who has volunteered to work on Christmas Day, has to deal with the body of ‘Father Christmas’ who has been found dead under a Christmas tree by a young boy. In Stepping Up, a retired boxer, who was once a minder for underworld criminals, is persuaded to attend an exercise class by his daughter. When he sees a female face from the past getting into trouble with another member of the class, he knows he has to intervene, regardless of any consequences.

This book should come with a disclaimer, as only the first story features Thorne – he’s not even mentioned in the second one! As a result, I felt a bit conned as I was looking forward to reading two stories about what cases the inspector was involved in at Christmas. A third part of the book was also a preview of a novel I had already read so, needless to say, this was not the best 99p I’ve ever spent!

Despite this, I did enjoy the first story (the one about Thorne) although the second one ended in a quite confusing manner. I think I’ll stick to the novels in future!

 

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