With the Tom Thorne series feeling a little jaded, it was interesting to read a "standalone" novel from Billingham to see what he could come up with. The result? Well, pretty much the same fayre to be honest, but told from a slightly different narrative perspective. Fair play to Mark Billingham that the story works well enough, carried by a strong female lead character (yes, a policewoman on maternity leave); but the landscape of the story - the crime badlands of London - is familiar territory. The book seems quite realistic and well-researched on gang culture and life on the margins of society, and satisfyingly most of the unpleasant characters who appear in the book tend to get what they deserve as the story unfolds.
To call this a non-Tom Thorne book is slightly misleading. He's there in the background, viewed from a slightly different viewpoint, but there nonetheless, albeit in cameo role. As for the "brilliant" twist at the end of the book - you'll either be excited by it or think "so, what" - Billingham is a story teller so don't expect things to pan out as you'd expect; the punchline is always going to be a bit what you weren't looking for.
"In The Dark" takes itself more seriously than some Mark Billingham books. The themes of his stories are always pretty bleak, but the Thorne books contain moments of light relief and comic interplay between the characters. There's not much of that on show here, and the narrative style seems more tightly controlled and sombre - so much the better for that in my opinion.
It's okay - well-written enough for this type of book, but overall you get the feeling that the author is looking for some new direction but hasn't quite found it yet. As a couple more Thorne books have followed this one, perhaps he's still looking.