Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review: Time of Death by Mark Billingham

Time of Death (Tom Thorne, Book #13)
by Mark Billingham
Release Date: June 2nd 2015
2015 Atlantic Monthly Press
Ebook Edition; 448 Pages
ISBN: 978-0802123633
ASIN: B00SRVAES2 (Hachette)
Genre: Fiction / Murder
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

The astonishing thirteenth Tom Thorne novel is a story of kidnapping, the tabloid press, and a frightening case of mistaken identity.Tom Thorne is on holiday with his girlfriend DS Helen Weeks, when two girls are abducted in Helen’s home town. When a body is discovered and a man is arrested, Helen recognizes the suspect’s wife as an old school-friend and returns home for the first time in twenty-five years to lend her support. As his partner faces up to a past she has tried desperately to forget and a media storm engulfs the town, Thorne becomes convinced that, despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, the police have got the wrong man. There is still an extremely clever and killer on the loose and a missing girl who Thorne believes might still be alive.

My Thoughts
Time of Death is the thirteenth entry into the Tom Thorne series, and this one did not disappoint.  The last book in this series was quite intense so I was glad to take a break from the intensity and go back to a more 'leisurely' investigation.  However, leisurely is a deceptive word when talking about a Billingham murder/mystery as this author really knows how to deliver a complicated story that is fairly easy to follow while also making the reader think about what is going on behind the scenes.
Tom and his girlfriend Helen are supposed to be on holiday, but that is really an oxymoron for anyone who has followed this series from the beginning as loyal followers understand that Tom doesn't really know how to relax anywhere or anytime.  He is nosy, curious, impatient, and when Helen involves herself in the case because the suspect's wife happens to be an old friend of hers, Tom simply can't help himself by becoming involved as well as he doesn't know what to do with the extra time he has on his hands.  While this type of personality has won him his fair share of cases, it has also gotten him into a lot of trouble and loyal fans have had to sit through many situations with Tom as he was demoted, promoted, demoted, and returned to his position throughout the years, then threatened with demotion yet again.  It has been quite the ride, but the author has a way of drawing in his readers and you become emotionally invested in what happens to his characters and Tom can put you through the ringer sometimes. 

The first part of the novel moves a bit more slowly than we're used to, but I didn't actually mind as I enjoyed the descriptions of the fictional towns of Polesford and Dorbrook and the struggles the people were going through as they dealt with both the disappearances of the girls as well as the recent flooding in their towns from the heavy rains.  I do have to admit the author did a great job throwing those red herrings in my path as I struggled to figure out who committed the crime as I changed my opinion quite a few times in this one, and that doesn't happen very often, especially with an author I have read since the first book.  I also enjoyed learning more about Helen and her past, glad to see her opening up a bit more, as the author explored Tom and Helen's relationship.  I like the fact their relationship isn't perfect, and it certainly is different to see Tom in this role as partner, one who is more loving and kind, as he does tend to be rather brusque and hard at times.  And although I love Phil Hendricks as a character, I'm still undecided as to whether his appearance in this novel was an asset or a hindrance; the whole situation felt a bit jarring to me and didn't quite fit into the atmosphere and tone set by the rest of the story.

Time of Death had an intriguing premise and I enjoyed it very much, even if it didn't have that pulse-pounding feel of the previous novel.  To be honest, I think I liked it for that very reason as it gave you room to breathe a little bit before the real intensity hit you again.  I was glad to see the further development of the characters, and the learn a bit more about Helen and her past; hopefully, we'll get to learn more in the next few novels as I think she has an interesting story to tell.  Sometimes when an author gets to this stage in a series, the novels tend to get a bit boring, but this author is continuing his amazing storytelling with rather intricate and interesting plots and fascinating characters and continuing rather strongly.  I am definitely looking forward to the next installment of the Tom Thorne series.