Title: Time of Death by Mark Billingham
Tom Thorne Series Book 13
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
The astonishing thirteenth Tom Thorne novel is a story of kidnapping, the tabloid press, and a frightening case of mistaken identity.
Tom Thorne is on holiday with his girlfriend DS Helen Weeks, when two girls are abducted in Helen’s home town. When a body is discovered and a man is arrested, Helen recognizes the suspect’s wife as an old school-friend and returns home for the first time in twenty-five years to lend her support. As his partner faces up to a past she has tried desperately to forget and a media storm engulfs the town, Thorne becomes convinced that, despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, the police have got the wrong man. There is still an extremely clever and killer on the loose and a missing girl who Thorne believes might still be alive.
Time of Death by Mark Billingham is another brilliant installment in the Tom Thorne series. It is another well-written novel with a clever mystery to solve but it is the intrigue surrounding Tom’s girlfriend Helen Weeks that makes it such a riveting read.
In this latest outing, Tom and Helen are on holiday when she learns the husband of one of her childhood friends is a suspect in the kidnapping of two teenage girls. Helen insists they cut their vacation short so she can support her friend and Tom tags along to keep her company. Of course, he cannot resist poking around the investigation and although his input is not appreciated by the DI in charge of the case, Tom continues to pursue the leads he uncovers. He is also growing increasingly concerned for Helen since she has been out of sorts since their arrival in town but she remains tight-lipped about why she is so upset.
Helen abruptly left her hometown twenty years earlier and never returned. But when Stephen Bates, the husband of her old friend Linda, is arrested for the kidnapping of Jessica Toms and is a strong suspect in the disappearance of Poppy Johnston, Helen is compelled to lend her support. Their relationship is a bit strained but this could be due to the circumstances of their reunion. However, as the story progresses, it becomes obvious that something from their childhood is responsible for the increasing tension between them.
While Helen is busy with Linda, Tom continues his off the books investigation into the girls’ disappearances. When Jessica’s remains are discovered, Tom becomes convinced that Stephen has nothing to do with the crimes despite the overwhelming physical evidence against him. Tom’s close friend, medical examiner Phil Hendricks joins his investigation and the two men begin to piece together a viable scenario for how the killer is manipulating the evidence to frame Stephen for the crimes. Once their suspicions are confirmed, it is just a matter of time before Tom uncovers the identity of the real killer, but will he be able catch him before it is too late?
Time of Death is an absolutely outstanding addition to the Tom Thorne series. The mystery is fast paced and nearly impossible to solve. Although it is easy to narrow down the suspect list, red herrings and misdirects effectively mask the perpetrator’s identity for much of the story. Mark Billingham keeps the series fresh by taking Helen and Tom out of their element but it is the addition to Helen’s story arc that really makes Time of Death stand out from the previous novels. Her revelations are heartbreaking and learning the truth about her past gives her character added depth. It will be interesting to see what comes next for Helen and Tom in both their personal and professional lives and as always, I am eagerly awaiting the next release in the series.