Tom Thorne is one of the most celebrated and consistent detectives featuring in crime fiction today, and I’ve read (I think) all of the novels by Mark Billingham that feature him. This one had been on the Kindle for a while, and I felt like something light-ish after the deeply emotional Educated; and I knew that this wouldn’t disappoint.
This Thorne novel focuses on honour killings across the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities, and starts with a young couple who are planning to run away from their parents…and who meet an untimely end. It also pairs Thorne with Nicola Tanner, who has a deeply personal reason for pursuing the killers, and persuades him (somewhat easily) to bend the rules a bit in order to try and find them.
As ever with Billingham’s novels, no matter how far-fetched the plot developments, or how stretched the credulity, the characters feel utterly real – and the small details of domesticity are beautifully done, especially between Thorne and his partner Helen. And there are the reassuringly recurring characters like Phil Hendricks and Russell Brigstocke, who are as consistent and well-drawn as ever.
I can’t talk much about the novel without giving away many spoilers, but it builds beautifully and there is a tense set-piece chase packed with drama, and surprises right to the end – including at least one that I cursed myself for not seeing coming. It’s excellently plotted and while Thorne’s actions always push the boundaries of likelihood, it’s effortless and entertaining – Billingham remains in the top echelons of crime writing in the UK.
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