Book review: The Last Dance by Mark Billingham

Saturday, May 27, 2023 Permalink

I’m a fan of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne / Nicola Tanner series but also very much enjoyed (perhaps more!) his standalone 2021 release, Rabbit Hole. His latest novel, The Last Dance, kicks off a new series featuring Detective Declan (Dec) Miller… a witty wiseass I can soooo envisage on the big or small screen. Miller’s constant (almost compulsive) commentary is hilarious and it would translate well – if done properly with someone with great (droll) comedic timing.

Book review: The Last Dance by Mark BillinghamThe Last Dance
by Mark Billingham
Series: Detective Miller #1
Published by Sphere
on 25/05/2023
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 1408717123
Pages: 400

A double murder in a seaside hotel sees grieving Detective Miller return to work to solve what appears to be a case of mistaken identity.

Will this eccentric, offbeat sleuth find answers where more traditional police have found only a puzzle?

So what you need to know about The Last Dance, is it’s very funny. Well, the dialogue is witty and the characters are quirky. Miller is a ballroom dancing fan and (like Billingham) plays the guitar. Miller’s new partner DS Sara Xiu is into heavy metal accompanied by casual sex. And she (nick-named Posh because Miller thinks her surname is like jus… the ‘posh’ gravy) has no sense of humour; with sarcasm and witty repartee bypassing her completely. She quickly earns Miller’s respect though, through her no-nonsense straight-up detectiving. 

We quickly learn Miller’s returning to work after a personal loss. No one expects him back so soon but he’s bored. He’s also got an agenda and wants to right past wrongs. He gets waylaid though on an assassin-style double shooting at a local hotel. Complicating matters is the fact that one of the victims is the son of a local mobster, linked to Miller’s own recent tragedy. 

The cases themselves are interesting but the treat here is Miller – predominantly through the piquant prose penned by Billingham. It reminded me of slightly-darker Ted Lasso… that verbal diarrhoea that could be annoying but is endearing…

Xiu seemed pleased; bemused, but pleased. ‘Anyway, nothing to get excited about as far as Massey is concerned but I did find out one very interesting thing.’

‘Is it the fact that dolphins sleep with one eye open?’

‘No, it isn’t.’

‘OK, that was a bit of a stab in the dark… let me have one more guess. Is it the fact that the man who invented Pringles had his ashes buried in a Pringles can? Original flavour, if you want to be precise.’ p162

This ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, so readers are poised for the next in the series, but for me it also ended with a smidge of disappointment that I was saying goodbye to Dec Miller… even just for now.

The Last Dance by Mark Billingham will be published in Australia by Hachette and available in late May 2023. 

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


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