I think this is officially Tom Thorne number 16 but I only joined the Detective Inspector’s exploits four books ago and since then author Mark Billingham has introduced DI Nicola Tanner into the mix and though this mostly unfolds from Tom’s point of view, both feature strongly.
I commented in my last review that I was happy that Tom’s relationship was in trouble as I wasn’t a fan of his partner (and fellow cop) Helen and here they’ve recently separated.
Their Little Secret
by Mark Billingham
Series: Tom Thorne #16
on May 2nd 2019
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
ISBN: 0751566977, 9780751566987
When DI Tom Thorne is called to conduct a routine assessment at the site of a suicide, he expects to be in and out in no time. But when he arrives at the metro station, where a woman named Philippa Goodwin threw herself in front of an underground train, Thorne inexplicably senses something awry and feels compelled to dig deeper.
He soon discovers that she was the victim of a callous con-man whose deception plunged Philippa to her end. Enraged that one man's trickery caused an innocent death, Thorne enlists DI Nicola Tanner to help him track down the swindler and bring him to justice.
But the detective duo gets more than they bargained for when a young man's lifeless, bludgeoned body turns up on the shore of a nearby seaside town: it appears that very con artist they're searching for is connected to the murder.
I’m not sure (and don’t believe Tom is either) what it is that makes him look further into a seemingly obvious suicide. He seems to reflect on Philippa (Pip’s) isolation or desperation and I suspect it’s his own situation – a lack of certainty re what he wants – that makes him dig deeper.
It’s not long before he discovers she’s recently been fleeced by a conman posing as a romantic interest. Tom believes the man partially to blame and keen to see justice served. He also suspects Pip’s not his first victim so starts looking for evidence of the fraudster’s other nefarious deeds.
Tom’s surprised though when the man’s DNA is found at more gruesome crime scene and he’s shocked the conman has (d)evolved so quickly. But then there’s evidence of someone else’s involvement and Tom and Nicola have to consider if a pair could be feeding off each other in some creepy and slightly twisted relationship. (A little reminiscent of the very excellent My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing, which I read and reviewed recently.)
We also meet mother Sarah who’s devoted to her young son Jamie, but is obviously secretive about her life and their past. When romance presents itself we can guess our conman Lothario is on the scene but – given Sarah’s secretiveness – we’re not quite sure who’s playing who.
It’s a while before Billingham introduces the first twist and I guessed part of it but not the rest. The scenario I’d pondered didn’t seem feasible but Billingham sells it in a way that makes sense.
I certainly didn’t expect much of what came next. Some of it was a tad left field for me, though made sense in retrospect.
This is a really well-paced book that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s also one of those books where you know that not everyone will get justice. Not everyone can win. And of course not everyone is who we think they are.
So, again things won’t be tied up in a little bow, but there’s a sense of closure. Kind of.
I’m interested to see where Billingham is going to take Tom – personally, rather than professionally. I hadn’t read any of the series before Helen came onto the scene so am not sure about earlier relationships. As for Nicola, I really wish she wasn’t gay or perhaps that she was bisexual as I’d like to see her with Tom. But I’m guessing that’s unlikely.
Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham will be published in Australia by Hachette on 2 May 2019.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.