RUSH OF BLOOD - Mark Billingham
Part of what makes RUSH OF BLOOD work is the normality of the setup. Three couples, on an overseas holiday form one of those short-term friendships that we've probably all done. The one thing that seems to draw them together post holiday is the unthinkable. The disappearance of a young, obviously intellectually handicapped girl, from the same resort as them. The other part that works - the way the reader knows one of these six is a most likely a killer, but which one?
There are a number of devices that Billingham uses to obfuscate, explain, reveal and draw out the clues to what happened in Florida. Whilst it's a big set of possible suspects, each of the voices of each of the characters is quite distinct, as are their observations of each other - jointly and as couples. The major reconnection points, three dinner parties, hosted in turn by each couple, serve as check points in their friendship, in the events during their holidays, and in the understanding of each of them that the reader is building. The clues about what happened to the young victim are sparingly revealed - cleverly - as her body takes a long time to be discovered, in the same way that some sort of motivation, and the revelations about the killer are sparingly revealed. All the while the character of each of the six main suspects becomes clearer, and more worrying - is it the sleazy one, the creepy one or the one with the temper, maybe the appeaser, the victim or the enigma. Doubt is cast in all directions, and the pressure is increasingly getting to someone.
Whilst he's doing all of that with the possible suspects, Billingham, in short sharp bursts, also gives the reader an insight into the fallout from such a disappearance / death. The young girls mother, the local cop investigating the murder - each of these characters beautifully reflect that for every victim, there are ripples of consequence, of loss, of effect.
In RUSH OF BLOOD Billingham has created an interesting combination of character study and psychological thriller combined with a good old fashioned whodunnit. Not until the final moments of the book is the total truth revealed, and along the way it seems strange that of six random people, seemingly normal, everyday people, simply on a holiday in a foreign location... each of those people could conceivably be guilty of murder. Of a vicious, opportunistic, cruel murder into the bargain.
As a huge fan of the Thorne series of books, I've developed quite an admiration for the occasional standalone that Billingham has embarked on. RUSH OF BLOOD just reinforces that admiration - in very big spades.
Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, their perfect holiday takes a tragic twist: the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves.
When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don't always like what they find: buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some dark secrets, hidden kinks, ugly vices...
Then, a second girl goes missing.
Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine?