DEATH MESSAGE - Mark Billingham

Reviewed By
Andrea Thompson

Your opinion of this novel will be determined greatly by what aspect of the series you've come to deem most worthy of your attention.  Snappy dialogue is of course a-plenty, and Tom Thorne, however how dark he becomes, is always a hoot.  This we'd expect from a writer who once relied on stand-up comedy to pay his bills.   If the push-and-shove of modern policing, with its array of colourful characters, is what interests you there will be no disappointments there either.   Where DEATH MESSAGE takes its turn is in the processing of the crime itself.  Thorne dispenses with standard operating procedures to the point of irritation, and this is reflected in the annoyance Billingham has his secondary characters express at Thorne's behaviour.  Thorne's character is not quite the rogue operator yet but walks closer to becoming so in this work, which is something the regular reader of this series may have been expecting with events detailed in previous novels. Thorne has more pain and hate to carry along with him, and this is all borne in the environment of developing a new romantic relationship.  Billingham has put a few more spikes his creation this time round and as always, you can't help but be at least partially on the side of Thorne as he keeps his own ledger on who has done him wrong.

Back story is incorporated well into the present events so new readers to the series shouldn't have trouble with the flow of events.   The character of Thorne still manages to surprise with unexpected reactions to developments in the police investigation, the details of which are carried mostly inside Thorne's crowded head.  The new foibles such as the internet gambling, are a delight under Billingham's clever hand and serve to further endear his leading man to us.  Thorne placed in his early forties hasn't yet entered grumpy old man territory, but the promise is there that process will only enrich the character.  Are these novels character driven?  Yes, as this is the writer's strength. 

DEATH MESSAGE  is the seventh entry in the Tom Thorne series.   Mark Billingham is currently working on his next novel, a stand-alone thriller titled IN THE DARK.

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Thorne looked at the picture, feeling the pulse quicken at the side of his neck. There were times when he couldn't see what was staring him in the face, but this, for better or worse, was his area of expertise. Thorne knew a dead man when he saw him.

Delivering the "death message." That's what cops call those harrowing moments when they must tell someone that a loved one has been killed. Now Detective Investigator Tom Thorne is receiving messages of his own: photographs of murder victims sent to his cell phone.

Who are the victims? Who is sending the photographs? And why is he sending them to Tom Thorne? The answer lies in the detective investigator's past, with a man he had once sent to prison for life. But even behind bars, the most dangerous psychopath Thorne has ever faced is still a master at manipulating others to do his dirty work for him. And Thorne must act fast because the photos keep on coming, and the killer's next target is someone the detective investigator knows very well. . . . 

Review DEATH MESSAGE - Mark Billingham
Andrea Thompson
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

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