Book review: Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Saturday, June 4, 2016 Permalink

Time of Death by Mark Billingham was my first by the English author. It was the thirteenth in the series about London Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and though I’d missed a lot of backstory… it really didn’t matter.

His latest novel is a standalone thriller, so if you’re yet to read anything by Billingham, Die of Shame is the perfect place to start.

Book review: Die of Shame by Mark BillinghamDie of Shame
by Mark Billingham
on May 31st 2016
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1408704838, 9781408704837
Pages: 448

Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about addiction. There they share their deepest secrets: stories of lies, regret, and above all, shame.

Then one of them is killed - and it's clear one of the circle was responsible.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner quickly finds her investigation hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these people and their therapist together.

So what could be shameful enough to cost someone their life? And how do you find the truth when denial and deception are second nature to all of your suspects?

There’s no serial killer at work here. It’s just one murder. One mystery. But it’s full of troubled characters and Billingham very cleverly ekes out the clues via a plot unfolding in two timeframes. Then and Now.

In the Then we meet the support group members and learn their stories. A new member’s just joined, so the dynamics have changed a little, but it’s also an opportunity for each of the members to connect with someone new and ‘share’ how far they’ve come. (Hey, at least I didn’t use the word ‘journey’!)

The new member is very much a catalyst for change and a number of times wonders if her arrival has caused the disharmony that suddenly exists. But perhaps it’s been there all along… bubbling beneath the surface. And new secrets emerge as a result of an exercise therapist, Tony Da Silva, gives the group – an opportunity to share their greatest shame.

Things get awkward and things get ugly and it ultimately culminates in the murder of a support group member.

The blurb mentions that – as former addicts – the group members (and Tony who’s an ex-addict) are all adept at deception, but on top of that DI Tanner’s up against the first rule of similar groups…. that NOTHING that happens at the group is shared outside of the group. Including who’s present and what’s said.

So in the Now Tanner’s forced to pick apart the group, one member at a time, to learn their secrets and tease anything at all from them which may assist in the case. And of course on top of the secrets that remain hidden, recent conflict means everyone seems to have a motive of sorts.

I guessed the whodunnit but had no idea of the why, so that was interesting.

There are also a few chapters which centre around someone visiting a prisoner – ostensibly a law student wanting information and insight – but the prisoner realises the person in question is very much getting off on the story they have to share. A murderer in the making perhaps? And we wonder what role they have in the plot at hand.

Billingham basically gives all of the characters equal time so we’re in the heads of every one them at one point or another. Some are likeable and some, well… not so much. But, we come to understand them nonetheless.

And Nicola Tanner’s a dogged detective. I liked that Billingham avoided the usual conflict with the boss or others cliche here, though he did make rather a big deal of the fact she was gay and lived with her female partner. It’s great that we’re seeing more diversity in fiction but I would have preferred we meet her partner in a more matter-of-fact way, rather than the cryptic use of acronyms and formal titles until it’s revealed that she is – ta da – a woman! (Though i should mention Billingham employed the same tactic at the same time in terms of the gender of our dead body… keeping us guessing for as long as possible!)

And just a warning, for those control freaks like myself who need closure… you (ahem) *may* not find it here!

A very enjoyable novel by Billingham who deftly provides insight into the lives of our characters as they struggle with the anticlimax which sometimes comes from freeing oneself from the shackles of addiction.

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Do you have a preference? A series of books vs standalone novels?

  • kimbacaffeinate
    June 5, 2016

    This sounds interesting and yes even when I solve the case, sometimes the why keeps it interesting 🙂

    • Debbish
      June 5, 2016

      Yes…. I really didn’t see the ‘why’ coming on this one.

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