Category Archives: Tom Thorne Series

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: 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 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