I think that sometimes one of the most underrated aspect of the crime novel genre is the humour that can often be found amongst the blood, guts and gore. It was with this in mind that for TOPCWFC book four I cheated a little by returning to an old favourite rather than picking someone new. This time I chose Mark Billingham and his novel Bloodline. The book is a couple of years old rather than his latest one (and I have to admit that it was found in the bargain £2 bin in a local bookshop) I’m a big fan of his previous books I had been saving it for a night off knowing that it would be hard to stop once I’d started and I was right!
The star of the book is DI Tom Thorne, who is a likeable and believable detective who I think manages to balance the fine line between loveable bumbling, and hard drinking nasty we have become used to reading of in our fictional detectives.
In Bloodline the bodies start turning up with pieces of an old x-ray in their hands, the scan is soon linked to serial killer Ray Garvey who died in hospital from a brain tumour 15 years previously. The new bodies are the children of Garvey’s original victims and are being battered to death one by one with no apparent logic.
The blurb of the book states that ‘Thorne has a macabre jigsaw to piece together’ but even if you are as anti jigsaws as me that shouldn’t put you off (what is the point of a jigsaw, you pick one you like the picture on, you spend hours putting it together so it looks like the picture on the box, then you take it apart again. Is that really a worthwhile hobby?) This book is an excellent page turner, that keeps you guessing from start to finish.
The description of a writer ‘weaving’ a story is never more true than with books from Mark Billingham. From the prologue where we are introduced to Debbie and Jason, through to the final showdown and the thoughts of the train driver, the characters intermingle cleverly. Yet unlike in some novels you never get the impression that people are just being introduced to fill up space. They are all brought in for a purpose, and there is enough background given for each of them that you end up caring about all the characters not just the detectives.
If I had to give any criticism (which I’d rather not as I think the rest of his books have been outstanding) One is that I felt the motive for the original crimes by Garvey was very weak, however that wasn’t the main part of this story so can be forgiven. Plus it became obvious that one of the two remaining male ‘victims’ was going to be the perpetrator, however saying that, the whys and hows were still totally baffling right up until the end so neither of these minor criticisms detracted from the enjoyment.
For those who don’t know about Mark Billingham, he was previously a stand up comedian which I think shows in his writing. This is the 8th of the Tom Thorne series, and many of his characters use humour and one liners to lighten the mood which makes all of Billingham’s books easy to read despite the gruesome nature of the crimes.
Mark Billingham is the head of the Programme Committee for this year’s festival, and having seen him chair a sessions back in 2010 it’s an added bonus to be able to see him again this year, not only talking about his own books (hopefully) but as a great humerous interviewer. His sessions will definitely be a must see!