Review: Time of Death by Mark Billingham

Thursday 23 April 2015
Title: Time of Death (Tom Thorne, #13)
Author: Mark Billingham
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: 23rd April 2015
Pages: 464
ISBN: 9781408704813
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
The Missing: Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up and from which she long ago escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.

The Accused: When it's splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates' wife - an old school friend of Helen's - who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband's innocence.

The Dead: As residents and media bay for Bates' blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk - and a merciless killer.

Any book blogger will tell you how much of a privilege it is to receive books weeks before publication, but when that book is the new Mark Billingham, it is hard to put into words the level of excitement. Tom Thorne has long been my favourite British detective, although most recently he has had competition in the form of Luke Delaney's Sean Corrigan. If there's ever another Face Off novel, these two characters would be brilliant together.

Thorne and his partner, and fellow police officer, Helen Weeks are taking a much deserved break when news reaches them that two girls have been abducted in Helen's home town, a place she hasn't returned to in years. A place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried. Some a little too close to home for Helen. The man on the front pages, arrested for the abductions is a family man and husband of one of Helen's old school friends. Helen tells Thorne that she needs to return to Polesford, to help and be there for her old friend. Thorne reluctantly tags along, and before long finds himself caught up in the case as well...

In the beginning I wondered just why Helen was so quick, and keen to go back to a place she hasn't visited in years and to help a 'friend' that she hasn't seen or spoken to in that time either. If in 20 years I was in a situation such as the one here, the last person I would want or expect to hear from is an old school friend. As the story progressed however, things became a lot clearer and as the reader discovers more about Helen and her past, I finished the book as a firm fan of Helen Weeks, having been on the fence since her introduction to the series, and this is testament to the fact that readers must trust an author knows what they are doing!

Thorne is a bit of a maverick, and regular readers will know that when he gets an idea in his head, he will definitely go ahead and see it through regardless of the consequences and that is the case in Time of Death when Thorne believes that the police have the wrong man in custody, and he sets himself on a collision course with the local police, the local community, and a merciless killer. Along for the ride is fan favourite Phil Hendricks, Thorne's best friend and pathologist and one of my favourite characters in the series. Hendricks enhances not only the story, but Thorne's character and the two of them together on the page is always a real highlight for me.

Billingham is a born writer and storyteller, and once again he weaves a tale in Time of Death that kept me guessing throughout, with plenty of red herrings to throw off the most seasoned of crime fiction readers, meaning that there will be a number of readers that will fail to put this puzzle back together. The conclusion is brilliantly done, wrapping things up but leaving the reader wanting to continue reading about these characters, and as with any series a reader enjoys, the ending always comes far too soon. Thirteen is unlucky for some, but it isn't for Mark Billingham who returns with one of his strongest novels yet. Time of Death comes highly recommended by me.


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