When I picked up Mark Billingham
’s BLOODLINE, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Billingham had long been on my list of authors to try, but proving yet again that there are far more books out there than I’ll be able to read in my lifetime. I love police procedurals, but the reality is that they’re certainly not all created equal; I’ve had hit-and-miss experiences.
Turns out that Billingham generally—and BLOODLINE specifically—is a home run (or six).
The hero of Billingham’s series is Tom Thorne, a detective in London who loves country music and is as far from one-dimensional as can be. He’s smart, for sure, but doesn’t always know exactly what to do in any given moment. He makes the wrong choices on occasion, and sometimes with disastrous results. He misses things. He sees the worst in people on a regular basis. He is as flawed as all the best detective characters are.
BLOODLINE begins at the end of the story, a tricky literary device of which I’m not generally fond, but Billingham uses it without it being confusing or unsettling. It also sets the stage for the story itself, about a serial killer born of past events. Like many police procedurals—especially those involving serial killers—BLOODLINE is quite graphic and somewhat unsettling. For me, though, these stories aren’t meant to be full of butterflies and unicorns, and nothing in this story is gratuitous. Each plot twist, character, and line of dialog works together in a framework of pacing that is neither exhausting nor boring to create a compelling tale. It feels natural at every turn, never forced.
At several points in BLOODLINE, I thought I had it all figured out, that I could coast through the rest of the story. I was wrong. But being lulled into a smug sense of figured-it-out-ness and then yanked back out kept the story moving, and reminded me that these characters weren’t going to let me, as a reader, coast.
BLOODLINE also does justice to London, one of my favorite cities on the planet (which says a lot, seeing as I’ve never visited another planet). It isn’t a pristine portrait from the pages of a convention center brochure, but neither is it solely grit. It brings the city to life in a manner that reminded me of my trips to Atlanta with Will Trent or LA with Charlie Hardie.
BLOODLINE is the latest Tom Thone book to reach American shores. But the latest-latest is GOOD AS DEAD, currently topping bestseller lists in the UK. It will be out here next year, but will be called THE DEMANDS. In the meantime, and while we await the arrival of the Thorne TV show, check out the thorne app
, which includes fun videos, including one with Billingham on the bridge where BLOODLINE opens and details on each book in the Thorne series.
Still not convinced? How about this: I’m giving away, to one lucky reader, copies of both of Billingham’s first Tome Thorne novels. Just enter your email address below. I’ll pick a winner at random next week!
Blurb: A taut police procedural that keeps readers guessing
Author’s Website: www.markbillingham.com
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