Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Mark Billingham
Little, Brown, July 2004
368 pages
ISBN: 0316725730

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Mark Billingham's a stand-up comedian by trade, but he can give up the day job soon as he likes.

Billingham is one of the few writers who enticed me back to reading serial killer books after some serious burn-out on my part (I blame Thomas Harris, myself!) THE BURNING GIRL is the fourth book to feature Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. But if you're looking for Stuart Pawson-style wisecracks, as befits Billingham's background, go elsewhere -- this is pretty bleak stuff.

THE BURNING GIRL, though, has a different focus from the earlier three books -- that of London gangs. And before you say it, no, this isn't a rehash of the Kray bruvvers and how, gawd bless 'em, they kept the East End clean and they loved their mother. Billingham's gangs are bang up-to-date, with Londoners, Turks and Eastern Europeans battling for supremacy in the capital.

Alongside all of this, Thorne is dragged into a 20-year-old murder. We met retired DCI Carol Chamberlain in LAZYBONES where she'd been drafted back to work on cold cases. This time around an old case has returned to haunt her. Schoolgirl Jessica Clarke was turned into a human torch, but Gordon Rooker, the lowlife found guilty of the crime, is about to be released. But it looks like there might be a copycat at large.

The present and past become entwined in the unsavoury form of Billy Ryan, a gangland boss -- and who just happened to marry the girl who was the original target of the attack that killed Jessica Clarke.

Thorne is an all-too-real character with believable foibles. As with Peter Robinson's Alan Banks, under-drawn rather than over-the-top works best, although Thorne's tendency to sleep with the wrong woman, and trying to cope with an elderly father with Alzheimer's jars occasionally. But there's an equally believable cast around him, including gay pathologist Phil Hendricks, who acquires a new body piercing every time a new man appears on the scene; DC Dave Holland, looking a bit frayed around the edges with a new baby to contend with, and Carol Chamberlain, forced into retirement, but unable to let the job go.

Billingham is a formidable story teller who writes crisp, taut prose and who plots with the best of them. This is one series that keeps getting better.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, July 2004

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]