Category Archives: Atlantic Monthly Press

Review: Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

Title: Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham
Tom Thorne Series Book Fourteen
Publisher: Atlantic Press Monthly
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Internationally bestselling author Mark Billingham’s riveting new novel Love Like Blood marks the return of series character Tom Thorne, “the next superstar detective” (Lee Child), as he pairs up with perfectionist detective inspector Nicola Tanner of Die of Shame on an investigation that ventures into politically sensitive territory.

DI Nicola Tanner needs Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related. Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one. And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold. Racing towards a twist-filled ending, Love Like Blood is another feat of masterful plotting from one of Britain’s top crime novelists.

Review:

In Love Like Blood, DI Nicola Marsh turns to Tom Thorne for help following the murder of her girlfriend Susan Best.  The investigation focuses on honour killings in this fourteenth installment of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series.

Having ruffled quite a few feathers while working for the Honour Crimes Unit, Nicola is certain she, not Susan, was killer’s intended target.  Currently on compassionate leave following Susan’s death, she enlists Tom’s help in an off the books investigation that might be linked to the four year old unsolved murder of Meena Athwal. Nicola’s theory that parents in the Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh communities are hiring hitmen to kill their daughters whose behavior brings shame to their families is plausible but it has made her some powerful enemies. Eager to solve his cold case, Thorne agrees to investigate Susan’s death but will they uncover the truth before it is too late?

Tom is never afraid to step on toes, but he is uncharacteristically diplomatic as he tries to convince his boss DCI Brigstocke to let him investigate the current case of a missing young couple, Amaya Shah and Kamal Azim.  He is also surprisingly honest about the fact that he is looking into Susan’s murder but he is careful to downplay Nicola’s involvement in the investigation. Now he has Brigstocke’s blessing to look into the disappearance of Shah and Azim, Tom is deeply troubled after his interviews with the victims’ families. Fortunately CCTV footage gives Thorne and Marsh a strong lead that supports the hitman theory.  When Amaya’s body is discovered, Tom is frustrated when his boss insists he concentrate on locating her boyfriend Kamal after strong evidence leads everyone to believe he is most likely her killer.

The various investigations unfold at a rather slow pace but Tom and Nicola have many intriguing leads to pursue. Nicola has uncovered a possible link to three leaders in the Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh communities who are working together to combat the hate crimes directed toward them. Arman Bannerjee is the most charismatic of the three leaders and at the urging of his son, Ravi, he previously lodged a complaint against Nicola. Needless to say, Bannerjee is less than enthused to see her and Thorne at their meetings. Tom and Nicola cannot help but wonder if Arman’s animosity is an indication he is involved in the honour killings.  When an attempt is made on Nicola’s life, Tom is certain they are the right track, but will he locate the suspected hitmen before they strike again?

Love Like Blood is a leisurely paced mystery with an refreshingly unique storyline.  Nicola and Tom are a formidable team as they tenaciously pursue numerous leads in the investigation into the honour killings and Susan’s murder.  Mark Billingham brings the novel to a jaw-dropping conclusion with a shocking plot twist that is impossible to predict.  This latest release is another brilliant addition to the Tom Thorne series that old and new fans are going to love.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Love Like Blood, Mark Billingham, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, Tom Thorne Series

Review: Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham

Title: Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 480 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Perfect strangers. A perfect holiday. The perfect murder.

In the standalone novel Rush of Blood, internationally bestselling author Mark Billingham puts a sinister twist on a deceptively innocent topic: the beach vacation.

Three British couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on Easter Sunday, the last day of their vacation, tragedy strikes: the fourteen-year-old daughter of an American vacationer goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves. When the shocked couples return home to the U.K., they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don’t always like what they find. Buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some unusual kinks and unpleasant vices. Then, a second girl goes missing, in Kent—not far from where any of the couples lives. Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine?

Ambitiously plotted and laced with dark humor, Rush of Blood is a first-rate suspense novel about the danger of making new friends in seemingly sunny places.

Review:

Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham is a captivating mystery about a teenager who goes missing on vacation and the three couples who “knew” her.  Upon their return home, the couples resume their vacation friendship and eventually begin discussing the girl’s disappearance.  When local police begin questioning them and another teenage girl goes missing, suspicions begin to arise that one of the six is responsible.

British couples, Angie and Barry Finnegan, Sue and Ed Dunning, and Marina Green and Dave Cullen are all staying at the same resort while on holiday in Sarasota, FL.  They strike up a vacation friendship and they enjoy hanging out together around the pool and dining with each other at local restaurants.  On their last night in town, their idyllic vacation is marred by the disappearance of a fellow vacationer’s fourteen year old daughter.  Not letting the unfortunate incident ruin their last night in town, the couples exchange e-mail addresses and promise to keep in touch once they are back in the UK.  Back home, Angie arranges the first of three increasingly tense dinner parties.  Not long after each of the couples are re-interviewed by  Detective Constable Jenny Quinlan, another young girl goes missing in the local area.  Certain the same person is responsible for both the kidnappings, FL detective Jeff Gardner liaises with British detectives in hopes of catching the kidnapper/killer.

On the surface, each of the couples appears to be quite happy with their lives and relationships.  However, once they return to their normal lives, they begin to see the cracks beneath the surface.  Angie is a stay at home mom with plenty of time on her hands while her contractor husband Barry flies off the handle both at home and at work.  Sue and Ed are long married but Ed has a wandering eye and he is not exactly being truthful about what he does while traveling for his work.  Dave Cullen and Marina Green are the only couple who are not married but they seem to have a secure relationship even if they do appear to be a little mismatched.  Marina is a beautiful woman who works part-time while she pursues her acting career whereas Dave somewhat of a computer geek.

DC Quinlan’s interviews with the couples reveal what the reader already knows: not everyone was honest when they were questioned by the police in FL.  Some of these untruths were lies by omission while others were not so innocent efforts to conceal information.  Unable to provide solid information about some of their movements on the afternoon the teenager went missing, Detective Gardner digs a little deeper and uncovers some very surprising information.  Closer to home, DC Quinlan doggedly continues looking into each of the vacationers’ backgrounds and what she discovers definitely warrants further investigation.

Rush of Blood is a slow building whodunit where Mark Billingham  provides very intimate peeks into the private lives of three British couples who meet by happenstance while vacationing in the US.  When they return to their everyday lives, they begin to notice one another’s imperfections but does this mean one of them is a murderer?  The truth about who is responsible for the kidnappings emerges at one of the diner parties but there are still plenty of unexpected twists and turns ahead as the novel comes to a very shocking conclusion.  Another brilliant mystery that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Excerpt, Mark Billingham, Mystery, Review, Rush of Blood

Review: Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Title: Die of Shame by Mark Billingham
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From British thriller master Mark Billingham, a recent finalist for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library, Die of Shame is a chilling story of addiction, subterfuge, and murder.

Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about shame. A respected doctor, a well-heeled housewife, a young male prostitute . . . they could not be more different. All they have in common is a history of addiction. But when one of the group is murdered, it quickly becomes apparent that someone else in that circle is responsible. The investigation is hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these individuals and their therapist together, which makes things difficult for Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner, a woman who can appreciate the desire to keep personal matters private. If she is to find the killer, she will need to use less obvious means. The question is: What could be shameful enough to cost someone their life? And how do you find the truth when secrets, lies, and denial are second nature to all of your suspects?

Review:

Die of Shame, a standalone mystery by Mark Billingham, is an intriguing whodunit that also offers a fascinating peek into the world of recovery and addiction.

Each week, five disparate, recovering addicts attend a group therapy session in the home of their therapist Tony DeSilva.  Robin Joffe, is an anesthesiologist who managed to salvage his career but not his marriage after he became addicted to drugs. Heather Finlay is both a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and she has also had a bit of trouble with a gambling addiction.  Diana Knight used alcohol to cope with her divorce and now dealing with her daughter’s enmity and her ex-husband’s impending fatherhood with his girlfriend, she has turned into a compulsive shopper.  Chris Clemence’s sobriety is tenuous as he struggles to secure housing and finds himself in financial straits due to his inability to maintain a budget.  Newcomer Caroline Armitage is battling an addiction to prescription painkillers while also trying to take control of her overeating.  Tony DeSilva is no stranger to addiction since he, too, once had a substance abuse problem but his current issues are much closer to home.  His marriage is strained and his teenage daughter Emma is battling a few demons of her own.  He is stunned to learn about the murder of one of his patients and much to Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner dismay, he is extremely protective of the remaining members of the group.  Although DeSilva refuses to divulge any information about his clients or their last session, DI Tanner tirelessly works to solve the murder.

From very different walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, the therapy group members have forged a friendship of sorts outside of their sessions.  They gather after their weekly meetings to discuss what happened during that evening’s therapy session and they also offer one another additional support.  Some of the members have formed secondary friendships and they sometimes spend time together in purely social settings.  After Caroline joins their weekly sessions, the dynamic between the original members begins to shift as she befriends everyone and while some of the changes are positive, tempers flare and suspicions grow after a few whispered suggestions stir up conflict.

Nicola has her work cut out for her during the murder investigation.  DeSilva is not the only person who is not talking since the remaining support group attendees also adhere to the strict confidentiality guidelines for their sessions.  However, bit by bit, Nicola begins to piece together the last therapy session that the victim attended and she is convinced the murder is somehow connected to this meeting.  Although she has a viable working theory, obtaining the proof to back up her supposition is easier said than done, but  Nicola tenaciously keeps working the case.

In addition to the chapters dedicated to the investigation and the various relationships among the therapy group, there are a few chapters that feature visits between an inmate and a mystery visitor.  Their discussions are quite fascinating but it is impossible to understand how they figure into the murder and subsequent investigation.  However, the intrigue surrounding these chapters becomes crystal clear when the killer’s identity is eventually revealed.

Die of Shame is a riveting mystery with a somewhat unusual storyline. Quite different than the typical police procedural, the novel mainly focuses on the characters and their struggles with the addiction.  Mark Billingham once carefully conceals the perpetrator’s identity and motive for the crime with some brilliant misdirects and clever red herrings. Although not every thread is neatly wrapped up, readers will be satisfied with the novel’s conclusion.  All in all, it is an absolutely phenomenal whodunit that fans of the genre are sure to love.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Die of Shame, Mark Billingham, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: Time of Death by Mark Billingham

time deathTitle: 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

Summary:

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.

Review:

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.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Mark Billingham, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Time of Death, Tom Thorne Series

Review: The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes

loved onesTitle: The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Historical (60s, 70s), Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The nationally best-selling Hughes returns with a darkly brilliant Mad Men-esque drama of family secrets and professional lies reminiscent of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and James Salter’s Light Years.

From the outside in, the Devlin family lead almost-perfect lives. Dashing father, Nick, is a successful businessman long married to sweetheart Jean, who upholds the family home and throws dinner parties while daughter Lily attends Catholic school and is disciplined into modesty by the nuns. Under the surface, however, the Devlins are silently broken by the death of their little boy. As Nick’s older brother, a man driven by callous and rapacious urges, inducts Nick into the cut-throat world of cosmetics the Devlin family are further fragmented by betrayals, and victims of the cruelest kind of hurt.

In The Loved Ones Hughes takes her gimlet eye deep into the secret places between men and women to give an incisive portrayal of one family’s struggle to stay together against stacked odds of deception, adultery, and loss. Years in the making, this is Hughes’ astonishing and compulsively readable break out, a sweepingly cinematic novel of relationships defined by an era of glamour and decadence.

Review:

The Loved Ones by Mary-Beth Hughes is a poignant novel about a family trying to cope with the death of their child.

The emotional divide between the members of the Devlin family is soon compounded by an unwanted move from their beloved family home in the US to London. Nick is coerced into taking a position in a cosmetic company by his manipulative brother Lionel and after his relocation to the UK, Nick tries to bury his grief with illegal drugs and extramarital sex.  Jean is less than thrilled with the move but she eventually capitulates and she, along with their daughter Lily, join Nick in London where she continues to distance herself from both Nick and Lily. Poor Lily was already struggling to fit in at her old school in the US and she does not find it easier to make friends or find her niche after the move.

Numerous characters are introduced early in the novel and it is virtually impossible to keep up with them or their relationships with the key players. With the exception of Lily, the main characters are difficult to like and despite feeling compassion for their loss, they are rather unsympathetic.

The Loved Ones is a somewhat difficult novel to follow. The narrative is rather disjointed and the shifts between past and present are not clearly marked. Despite the descriptive passages, there is a vagueness to the overall storyline that makes it impossible to connect with neither the plot nor the characters. A lack of quotation marks adds to the confusion and when the dialog lasts longer than a few sentences, it is hard to keep up with which character is speaking.

There is no doubt that Mary-Beth Hughes is a gifted storyteller. The Loved Ones is a well written novel with a decent storyline that is unfortunately buried in the midst of the rambling, confusing narrative. The story’s conclusion is quite unexpected and although a little abrupt and somewhat ambiguous, it is satisfying.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Fiction, Historical (60s), Historical (70s), Mary-Beth Hughes, Rated C, Review, The Loved Ones

Review: The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

beneathTitle: 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

Summary:

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.

The Review:

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.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Mark Billingham, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, The Bones Beneath, Tom Thorne Series