Title: The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham
Tom Thorne Series Book Twelve
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
The Bones Beneath, the twelfth novel in the internationally bestselling Tom Thorne series shows Thorne facing perhaps the most dangerous killer he has ever put away, Stuart Nicklin. When Nicklin announces that he wishes to reveal the whereabouts of one of his earliest victims and that he wants the cop who caught him to be there when he does it, it becomes clear that Thorne’s life is about to become seriously unpleasant. Thorne is forced to accompany Nicklin to a remote island off the Welsh coast which is cut off from the mainland in every sense. Shrouded in myth and legend, it is said to be the resting place of 20,000 saints and as Thorne and his team search for bones that are somewhat more recent, it becomes clear that Nicklin’s motives are far from altruistic.
The twisted scheme of a dangerous and manipulative psychopath will result in many more victims and will leave Tom Thorne with the most terrible choice he has ever had to make.
Mark Billingham’s The Bones Beneath is another compelling mystery starring Tom Thorne. This twelfth novel in the series is not a typical whodunnit with Thorne attempting to solve a crime. Instead, it is more of a psychological thriller with Thorne matching wits with Stuart Nicklin, the convicted serial killer he helped put behind bars years earlier.
Thorne is still in the hospital recovering from wounds he received in the previous novel in the series, The Dying Hours, when DCI Russell Brigstocke comes bearing both good and bad news. The good news is that Thorne is going to be reinstated with the Murder Squad. The bad news? Thorne is tasked with accompanying Nicklin to the remote island to recover the remains of Simon Milner, the teen Nicklin murdered over twenty years earlier. Thorne is immediately suspicious of Nicklin’s motives and he is equally puzzled by Nicklin’s insistence that fellow inmate Jeffrey Batchelor accompany them but Brigstocke insists on co-operating with Nicklin’s demands. Thorne keeps a close eye on the prisoners but it soon becomes clear that Nicklin has set into motion a diabolical plan that will force Thorne to make an unimaginable decision.
The tension in the novel remains high as the contingent begins their precarious journey from the prison to the isolated island. Thorne is continually on guard during necessary stops along the way and the forced overnight stays in a small coastal town. The voyage to and from the island is dependent on the capricious weather and the schedule of the local ferry. The search for Milner’s grave is hampered by bureaucratic obstacles and Nicklin’s manipulative tactics.
The events leading up to Milner’s murder are interspersed with the unfolding drama of uncovering his remains. His youthful enthusiasm and endearing naiveté make his subsequent death all the more shocking and poignant. But this effectively reveals how the coldhearted and ruthless Nicklin is and gives the reader incredible insight into the evil lurking inside him.
The reader’s attention is immediately captured by a intriguing and incredibly puzzling prologue where an unknown person is kidnapped. Glimpses of the victim are shown throughout the story, but the motive for the kidnapping along with everyone’s identities are carefully concealed. These brief flashes certainly raise very interesting questions about how and why this crime fits into the overall plot, but it is not until the very end of the story that everything finally becomes heartbreakingly clear.
The Bones Beneath is an absolutely brilliantly executed novel that is incredibly suspenseful. The island is the perfect setting for this dramatic and compelling mystery. Mark Billingham brings the riveting story to a jaw dropping conclusion with a spectacular and unexpected plot twist that is absolutely impossible to predict.