Bloodline by Mark Billingham

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Bloodline by Mark Billingham

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: DI Tom Thorne returns to work on another serial murder case. This isn't the best in the series, the pace becoming rather slow in the middle, but the ending is heart-pumpingly fabulous!
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Little Brown
ISBN: 978-1408700679

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Detective Inspector Tom Thorne becomes involved in what initially seems like an ordinary domestic murder. However, slivers of an X-Ray are found in the dead woman's hand, and it is soon discovered that the woman's mother was murdered by the serial killer Raymond Garvey some years before. Other deaths with the same modus operandi soon prove that someone is out to murder all the children of Raymond Garvey's... That someone may just be Garvey's bastard son, who believes that the tumour that killed his father meant that Garvey was not responsible for his actions. Can Thorne trace the killer's next victims before he strikes? And how can they trace the killer when his identity is unknown?

I've become rather fond of Tom Thorne as a fictional detective over the years - this is the eighth book in the Tom Thorne series. In many ways, he is a standard fictional officer in that he has trouble expressing his feelings and throws himself into every case that comes his way; yet there is something about him that makes him stand out above the rest. I think it is his attempt to understand the women in his life. In this book, his live-in girlfriend Louise has a miscarriage and he struggles to cope with it, wanting to make Louise feel better about it, but not really knowing how. He does, at least, try though, and there is some evidence of a sensitive soul in there, proving that he is more than just an action hero.

In many ways, Billingham's storytelling and characters remind me of Peter James' work; both are fast-paced, modern thrillers that focus on the dark and gritty side of life. The main difference is that, while James' stories are told via a wide variety of characters, Billingham concentrates more on Thorne as the main story-teller, with just a few paragraphs and short chapters dedicated to other characters. These are generally other police officers, but there is the odd insert from the potential victims and the murderer (the latter in the form of diary inserts). This really gives a tempting hint as to what is going to happen, although sometimes it becomes a little confusing when new names are introduced into the story.

After a positive start, I did begin to find my interest wavering towards the middle of the book. There is a great deal of procrastination on the part of the author. This is probably necessary and is almost certainy life-like, but as part of a piece of fiction, it isn't really ideal. I also had a problem with the fact that a serial killer's son becomes a serial killer. I'm not saying it couldn't happen - I'm sure it could - but somehow his reasons for the killings don't seem convincing, and it really affected my enjoyment of the book.

However, there is an absolutely stonking ending. I had a glimmer of an idea as to what might happen, and I was right, but it was still mostly a surprise and I found my heart racing as I read the last few chapters. I cannot remember the last time that happened to me while reading crime fiction - I read so much that there is very little that excites me these days. It's just a shame that the middle part wasn't a little faster paced - I can imagine that some will give up before reaching the good part.

I enjoyed the author's style of writing. Billingham is apparently a stand-up comedian in his spare time, but there is no attempt to jolly up his fiction, which I think is a good thing - few people mix crime fiction and comedy well. Instead, the writing is plain and unpretentious, but it flows well. He is also a fan of short chapters - something I appreciate, because it encourages me to read just one more chapter before turning out the light at night.

I'm not sure that this is Billingham's best - I enjoyed Lifeless and Sleepyhead more - but it is still a solid addition to the series. Just don't be put off by the slow middle third of the book - it really is worth sticking with it to find out what happens. And Tom Thorne is now definitely one of my favourite modern fictional detectives. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy this type of fiction, you may also like Dead Tomorrow by Peter James and A Darker Domain by Val McDermid.

Mark Billingham's D I Tom Thorne Novels in Chronological Order

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