American fans of Mark Billingham have had to wait almost two years to get the eighth installment in the Detective Inspector Tom Thorne series. The follow-up to Death Message, Bloodline came out in the U.K. in August 2009. Fans will find the wait well worth it.
Thorne is a London DI in his 40s, a member of the Metropolitan Police Murder Squad. He likes country music; his girlfriend, Louise Porter; and his best friend, Phil Hendricks, a gay, tattooed pathologist. He's tough but has feelings, and he's now dealing with a loss--Louise's miscarriage.
The book opens with a distraught mother taking her young son to a bridge where a train is fast approaching. Why? Cut to the hospital where Louise is; then cut to Thorne's new case, a strangled woman holding a piece of x-ray film in her hand. Why? Then cut to another murder and another piece of film. Gradually we learn that these victims are the children of serial killer Anthony Garvey's victims from years ago. Who is this new killer following in the perverse footsteps of the deceased Garvey? Is there a clue in the book's title? Billingham now has you in his grasp, and it's a firm one.
Billingham continues to grow as a novelist. He's in better control of his narrative and plots and his dialogue continues to be one of his strengths. Thorne is on his way to becoming one of the U.K.'s best (believable) fictional detectives. And American fans will have to wait again--for the BBC's new Thorne series. --Tom Lavoie