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by Mark Billingham
Little, Brown, August 2007
384 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 0316730521

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Those pesky mobile phones . . . Can't live without the little blighters, but someone sending photos of dead bodies via them really isn't playing the game. DI Tom Thorne is somewhat less than amused particularly as it's his phone.

And the pictures of murder victims keep coming. The police soon discover that the killer is a man who's just been released from prison and is on a mission as he believes he has nothing left to live for. But he's an elusive bloke and Thorne is forced to dig back into his own past and deal with a vicious psychopath who has dogged his path for years and who knows more about the case than he is letting on.

Mark Billingham's series starring Thorne ranks high on my must-reads. DEATH MESSAGE isn't the best of the books, but it's still one to read. I didn't find it quite so grabbing as its predecessors, as the story seems to drift. At one point Thorne comments that he can't get a handle on the killer and neither can we! Hang in there, though, as the ending is a cracker and there are some heart-stopping scenes as Thorne and Co charge round London trying to save the life of someone close to them.

One of the strengths of this series is its great supporting cast, and they're used to good effect in DEATH MESSAGE. There's Thorne's best mate Phil Hendricks, a gay pathologist with multiple body piercings and a line in sharp banter. The scenes where he sends suggestive text messages to Thorne, knowing that his phone is being monitored, are hysterical.

And Thorne's love interest, DI Louise Porter, plays a key role in the book, and not only for the fact that she might just be about to jolt Tom out of his well-honed routine of work, work, more work, online gambling, work and watching soccer and drinking with Hendricks.

Meanwhile, DCI Russell Brigstocke (why have I only just clicked that Billingham has been naming characters after stand-up comedian colleagues?) has other things on his mind. And Thorne's sidekick, DS Dave Holland, has family pressures that might see him changing jobs.

Billingham has always made sure that his characters move and change as the books progresses, and he's been careful not to overdo the 'Thorne as maverick loner' side of things. DEATH MESSAGE isn't for those new to this writer, but it's a satisfying addition to what's an outstanding series.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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