Books Read in 2021 – 22 The Killing Habit – Mark Billingham.

Genre: Detective, thriller

Narrative Style: Third person from various viewpoints, chronological

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2018

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: When Tom Thorne is given a series of cat killings to investigate, he doesn’t take it too seriously at first. Until he realises that it may be the work of serial killer between kills. Nicola Tanner is investigating what seems like a straight forward shooting. All the evidence points at one man. One man who is isn’t acting quite like she would expect for one who is so clearly guilty.

Time on Shelf: Not very long. I read the first one of this series a long time ago. I enjoyed it and I meant to carry on reading them. This did not happen. This one is much more recent but I bought it when it came up on Kindle daily deals with the intention of deciding if it was worth trying to read the series. After all, these books tend to stand well on their own – I read Rankin’s Rebus books in completely random order, starting somewhere in the middle and that seemed fine.

First of all, Tom Thorne is definitely my kind of detective. He does not always follow the rules. He is often in disagreement with those higher up the pay scale. He ploughs his own furrow. These are all the reasons that I like John Rebus quite so much. Added into that are interesting personal relationships with his girlfriend, Helen, and her sister who seems to hate him and his best mate, pathologist, Phil Hendricks who loves to wind everybody up. It might have helped to know a little more about Helen and what had happened in her past – the sort of details that move from book to book in such series – but I don’t think it was really a hindrance.

Both storylines were satisfying. Based on the location of the cat murders, Tom and his team find several unsolved murders of women. They find that they were all registered at the same dating agency and, in fact, had all been on dates the night before their murders. It unfolds nicely with a couple of satisfying red herrings along the way. I didn’t spot the killer although the clues were there if you were sharp enough and that was also good.

The other storyline – which sees Nicola Tanner taking on an extremely powerful drug ring – was also interesting if less intriguing. Andrew Evans comes out of prison hoping to turn his life around but the drugs he took in prison need paying for and soon he is doing jobs in order to pay of his debts. When he is found guilty of a murder he had no part in, he is taken into protective custody and Tanner tries everything she can to try and get at the gang.

This trots along at a nice pace and the prose is largely good. Occasionally, the dialogue feels a bit forced but for the most part Tom Thorne is convincing. I would certainly read more of this series and maybe I will endeavour to do it in the right order.

Books Read in 2015 26. Sleepyhead – Mark Billingham

Genre: Detective, Thriller

Narrative Style: Third person from various points of view, first person from the point of9780751531466_Z view of a surviving victim

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2001

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Three women are found dead, seemingly from strokes, when a pathologist spots that it may be murder. The next victim survives but is unable to communicate with anyone. Enter Tom Thorne, detective, who quickly realises that this victim is the killer’s one success. This is what he was aiming for all along. Equally quickly, he forms an idea of who the killer is and will not let it go even when the evidence is against him. 

I like to read detective fiction but I find I am often disappointed by it. The first series I liked was Ian Rankin’s Rebus books and they set a high standard, one that is rarely lived up to. I was pleased to discover that I loved Tom Thorne almost as much as I loved Rebus and I decided pretty quickly that I would be reading on.

There are a number of similarities. Thorne is equally unpredictable. He ploughed his own furrow and was not afraid of annoying his superiors. When he decided who he thought the killer was, there was no shaking his certainty. Even when this turned into obsession, the reader stayed with him and I desperately wanted him to be right, even while I knew he probably wouldn’t be. Like Rebus, he was a lone wolf and didn’t make friends easily. His relationship with Anne, his love interest in the novel, was equally complicated.

The plot was also strong. The idea of a killer aiming to leave people in a coma as they viewed this as the ultimate in freedom was as interesting as it was disturbing. Thorne’s unpredictability meant that it wasn’t always possible to spot what was going to happen next. And while I certainly put some of the clues together, I didn’t manage to come up with the whole picture which is always good.

The third person sections were written from a number of different viewpoints and often  used ‘he’ instead of immediately naming the character which added suspense and meant that the reader always had to work to understand who was being talked about. The first person sections from the point of view of Alison, the one surviving victim, were poignant and added emotional resonance to the story.

Overall, this kept me reading and I’m pleased to discover another series that I can really get my teeth into.