Book review: The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

Monday, June 11, 2018 Permalink

I stumbled across Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series at number 13. Amazingly it wasn’t a problem at all that I’d missed the first dozen and the two (Time of Death and Love Like Blood) I’ve read since could easily be read as stand-alone novels for those who haven’t previously met the English homicide detective. (Bringing me to the 15th book in the series and my third!)

Book review: The Killing Habit by Mark BillinghamThe Killing Habit
by Mark Billingham
Series: Tom Thorne #15
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press, Sphere
on June 12th 2018
Source: Hachette Australia, NetGalley
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 0751566942, 9780751566956, 9780802128249
Pages: 400

While DI Nicola Tanner investigates the deadly spread of a dangerous new drug, Tom Thorne is handed a case that he doesn’t take too seriously, until a spate of animal killings points to the work of a serial killer. When the two cases come together in a way that neither could have foreseen, both Thorne and Tanner must risk everything to catch two very different killers.

I really like Nicola Tanner so am enjoying her increased role in this series. In fact, I’m possibly engaging more with her character than Thorne in many ways. That could – of course – be because I seem to struggle with Thorne’s girlfriend, Helen and I’ve mentioned my antipathy towards her in my review of Time of Death. I know I shouldn’t be as judge-y because – as a fellow cop – she often provides useful and insightful suggestions from time to time.

Happily – errrr, sorry – there was a sense of trouble-in-paradise here. It’s sort of resolved at the end but I am kinda hoping there’s a story arc afoot and Thorne moves on. Or at least their relationship becomes more affectionate / loving / believable (or one I could care about).

As the above blurb mentions there are two cases featured here, though the convergence is probably a little less obvious or predictable than it suggests. In fact it comes a bit from left field. Although I may be just saying that because I didn’t guess whodunnit.

I very much enjoy Billingham’s witty and easy writing and I like his imperfect leads – including some of our extended cast – and appreciate (that) he features diverse characters – several are gay and from a range of cultures.

Although I enjoyed the investigation, the plot itself felt a bit weaker than usual. Well, the main plot – the crime Thorne’s investigating (though I did enjoy some of the cat-puns….!).

I get the whole serial killer indicator thing (the Macdonald triad – though hadn’t known it was called that so appreciate that info!) and know the torture and killing of animals is usually a hop skip and a jump to inflicting it on a person but Thorne’s gym analogy (I won’t say more cos that would mean it’s a spoiler) doesn’t entirely make sense. And the leap from cats to women and how they identify potential victims felt a bit tenuous. (Not to mention the fact the cat-killing / investigation seemed to get lost somewhere).

And of course, then at the end we’re left wondering how correct Thorne’s ‘workout’ theory was anyway….

The plot around the Duchess (a woman who gets prisoners addicted to drugs; hooking them in for payback on the outside) was more believable – though probably a tad less interesting. (As real life tends to be!)

All of that said, this was another solid and engaging outing in this series and I look forward to the next!

The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham will be published by Atlantic Monthly Press on 19 June and in Australia by Hachette on 12 June 2018.

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


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