Last year I read Mark Billingham’s standalone novel, Die of Shame and very much enjoyed it. I commented in that review that I’d previously read Time of Death, the 13th in a series by Billingham about DI Tom Thorne, though it wasn’t until I read this book that I discovered Thorne appeared (perhaps briefly as I didn’t mention him in my review) in Die of Shame.
We’re back in Thorne’s world either way this time around, but we’re reunited with our lead DI from the standalone, the dogged Nicola Tanner.
Love Like Blood
by Mark Billingham
Series: Tom Thorne #14
on May 30th 2017
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Police Procedural, Crime Fiction
DI Nicola Tanner needs DI Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related.
Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one.
And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold.
I should start by mentioning that it’s not a problem if this is your first Tom Thorne. There’s really no detailed backstory required and anything we need to know Billingham provides quickly and simply. In fact, it wasn’t until I added the book into Goodreads that I remembered I’d read no. 13 in the series and vaguely recalled the context. I didn’t even remember DI Tanner (as lead investigator) from Die of Shame, so this can easily be read as a standalone. (Although now I’m becoming a regular I’m sure Thorne and Tanner will become etched into my memory!)
Again I was surprisingly riveted by the plot and the characters. It’s interesting as I’m not usually tempted by books involving cultural / religious grievances or those touching on terrorism and the like. I should mention this doesn’t do the latter, but obviously in a world where people of some religions and cultural backgrounds are being targeted and labelled, it’s hard to avoid the subject completely.
I was going to add something about the fact that I don’t really understand how religion and cultural expectations (or prejudice against them) can override human compassion and decency, but realise my own perception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is perhaps also very influenced by my own culture (or lack of it), education, socio-economic status and so forth.
That aside, although the fraught subject of ‘honour’ killings is very much the theme of this novel it’s ultimately about bringing culprits of crimes to justice… no matter what their motivation OR involvement. And interestingly in our two contract killers (oops, sorry #spoileralert – though the involvement of killers for hire is something we learn quite early) Billingham offers up two very different characters… one who’s in it for the money and who (unfortunately) enjoys the pain they inflict a little too much; and the other believing they have a higher purpose.
Thorne’s initially a bit reticent to be brought into this case, wondering if Tanner’s overreaching in her suppositions and blinded by her grief. She’s known for playing by the rules though so there’s something about her conviction that draws him into the investigation. And… as it happens, there’s an opportunity to seek justice for an unsolved homicide on his books years earlier.
Thorne and Tanner are both great characters and complement each other well so I wonder if Billingham will give Tanner her own series, or pair them up on a regular basis. I also enjoy the fact Billingham gives us insight into a range of suspects (and victims – sadly) so we’re given a real opportunity to work out whodunnit for ourselves and (dare I say it) get a vague understanding of the motivation of those involved.
This is a really strong series and – if time ever permits – I won’t hesitate to go back and read some of those books I’ve missed.
Love Like Blood 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.