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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Burning Girl
“The Burning Girl” is the forth book from Mark Billingham to feature the exploits of DI Tom Thorne as he must yet again wrestle against the foes of the London underworld. This time is a departure from the formula of the first three books DI Thorne must start to pick his way into the goings on of organised crime and the money making schemes that these ruthless...
Published on 30 Jan 2006 by Rich Milligan

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but not great
Don't get me wrong, I love Mark Billingham. But this steps too far away from the "Thorne trying to solve a murder" plots of the earlier books. I think there are too many sub-plots and too many characters. The ending is a slight anti-climax as well. I hope Billingham has gone back to simiplicity with the next Thorne novels (I'm reading them in order).
Published on 1 Oct 2008 by H. Butler


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Burning Girl, 30 Jan 2006
By 
Rich Milligan (Thatcham, Berkshire) - See all my reviews
“The Burning Girl” is the forth book from Mark Billingham to feature the exploits of DI Tom Thorne as he must yet again wrestle against the foes of the London underworld. This time is a departure from the formula of the first three books DI Thorne must start to pick his way into the goings on of organised crime and the money making schemes that these ruthless gangs undertake.
A turf war seems to be developing between a traditional London based gang run by the merciless Billy Ryan and the new kids on the block, a group of Turkish immigrants run by the sinister Zarif brothers. Each side seems to be knocking off their opponents one by one and as the stakes get higher DI Thorne and the other members of SO7 are dragged into the fray. For Tom Thorne the interest in the case is made all the more relevant as he’s been contacted by former DCI Carol Chamberlain who’s now working on old cold cases. Carol has been threatened by a man claiming to have carried out a crime years ago, that of setting an innocent schoolgirl on fire. The things that connects it all is that for the last 20 years or so a man called Gordon Rooker has been locked away for having been convicted of the crime and he was a former “colleague” of Ryan’s.
I felt with the first three of Mark Billingham’s DI Thorne books that the standard of writing and plot had steadily increased with each instalment, I somewhat disappointed therefore to report that I felt this one hadn’t really upped the stakes any further.
It’s a solidly written and enjoyable book, make no mistakes about that, but I just felt that leaving the actual case besides there wasn’t any good character sub-plots going on. The reappearance of Carol Chamberlain was something I was looking forward to after he introduction in “Lazybones” and yet he character never really got going. Similarly the meeting up again of one of Thorne’s old police rivals, now DCI Tughan should have spelt the start of some cracking fireworks, instead it all sort of fizzled out. The best bits were about Thorne’s dad who is still able to make a standard scene into something sadly humorous.
I certainly won’t be giving up on Thorne for the moment as, as I say, this is still a good book, but hopefully the next one will raise the ante somewhat.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Addition To A Very Impressive Series, 25 July 2004
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Burning Girl (Tom Thorne Novels) (Hardcover)
Mark Billingham is the hottest new British crime writer on the block. His maverick cop is DI Thorne, who, like Rankin's Rebus, has a healthy disrespect for his inferior superiors, and a real talent for getting up a nose or two.

Both detectives also have despicable vices: Rebus has an inability to pass any pub without nipping in for a pint, or several, while Thorne is an aficionado of Country music: by far the bigger sin. The similarity ends there however: Thorne is very much his own man.

In a year where I've slogged through the new novels by more established names, Mark's new book comes as a breath of fresh air.

For a start, it's beautifully paced and, despite its brooding atmosphere, has several laugh-out-loud moments - not an easy trick to pull off. One scene in particular, set in a massage parlour, is an absolute scream.

And he's not repeating a formula; this book is very different to his first three and shows already that he isn't taking the easy option of sticking to familiar ground.

I won't discuss the plot here - you can read a synopsis anywhere - but I do wish to state that Billingham is an expert at the twist that really surprises.

We get a brace of them near the end here (although I have to confess I did spot one of them coming - but not the other) and then a further final twist in the last chapter, which gives the book a nice dark and ambiguous ending.

For fans of his earlier novels, the relationship between Thorne and his friend, the gay, shaven-headed pathologist Phil Hendricks, is further explored, and provides a nice sub-plot.

I also won't debate the book's merits as a piece of literature; this isn't the forum for in-depth analysis. All I'll say is it's supremely readable, interesting and surprising. And I'll take a well-written crime or suspense novel over Jane Austen any day.

If your palate has become jaded through too many predictable crime thrillers, beg, borrow or steal this book. The very least you'll get out of it is great entertainment.

.... Oh, and read his three previous novels too!.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but not great, 1 Oct 2008
By 
H. Butler (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Don't get me wrong, I love Mark Billingham. But this steps too far away from the "Thorne trying to solve a murder" plots of the earlier books. I think there are too many sub-plots and too many characters. The ending is a slight anti-climax as well. I hope Billingham has gone back to simiplicity with the next Thorne novels (I'm reading them in order).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars solid, but not out of the top drawer, 12 May 2012
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Like many of the leading police procedural writers such as Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly, Billingham has an easy but engaging writing style and a well developed, flawed, driven but sympathetic main character. The pages flip past without any real sense of the reader having do any work. This I think is a strong positive: clear, engaging, economical prose, with realistic scenes and dialogue. The Burning Girl is a solid piece of storytelling, but for me the book lacked the bite or spark that would have given it some needed suspense. The plot seemed a little aimless at times, as if Billingham wasn't quite sure where it was going, and there were a couple of plot devices I didn't really understand, such as the investigation being wrapped up and the team being disbanded even though the case was clearly not over. And the internal police tension amongst team members seemed staged. In contrast, the lives, politics and tactics of gang rivalry and prison life was more convincing. Overall, a solid, entertaining read, but not quite out of the top draw.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 14 Mar 2011
Another gripping, well-written, Tom Thorne novel from Mark Billingham. The plot is well constructed around a gangland feud that stirs a new review into the shocking case of a schoolgirl who was the victim of an arson attack and took her own life as a result of the horrible disfigurement that she was left with. Including excerpts from the dead girl's diary was a very powerful incision to the main narrative. The crooks on both sides are horrible and yet in an odd way so are the cops - even Tom Thorne is a bit too anti-hero towards the end, and I actually took quite a dislike to him. Nothing is by numbers with Mark Billingham.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Burning Girl, Mark Billingham, 27 Jun 2005
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Mark Billingham's protagonist DI Tom Thorne follows the great tradition of male police officers: the flawed hero, with a bit of music thrown into the mix, either to indicate what a thoughtful, mournful chap they are (Bosch with his Jazz), how intellectual and secretly sensitive (Morse with his classical), what a wild boy they are (Rebus with practically anything), and Tom Thorne has his fondness for country music, as if to say, "What a quirky chap I am". Unfortunately, like the shaven-headed homosexual pathologist who strains for originality with his myriad piercings, it doesn't work for me, and Thorne is very nearly one clichéd cop too far.
In Billingham's first books, that was alright, as his plots were incredibly inventive and original enough to satisfy, but when Lazybones came out and was practically the same as the first two in terms of plot structure, even that wasn't enough. Lazybones was thus not as satisfying, despite the fact that it did mark a definite growing-up point in the series. Fortunately, The Burning Girl breaks entirely new ground for Thorne, with a whole new plot structure that is refreshing and, quite frankly, excellent. Thorne may still be almost one stereotype too far (he even works, as is required for almost every single protagonist in the world, with The World's Most Fantastic Pathologist) but he is just about good enough, and as long as Billingham keeps his series fresh and his plots as good as this, then everything should tick over quite nicely.
I didn't actually expect to like this book. It sees Thorne plunged into a war between two London gangs, the Ryan family and the New Kids on the Block, the Turkish Zarif family. I generally dislike gangland stories (which means I have to keep away from Martina Cole at all costs); the only authors who've ever got me excited about them are Ian Rankin and David Lawrence. (The latter is especially recommended if you're already a Billingham fan.)
Anyway...
Members of Billy Ryan's gang are being clinically slain. Each body has an X carved into its back. The turf war is going to get even worse, because Ryan sooner or later will have to retaliate, and it could be very messy indeed. Thorne already has enough to think about with helping out ex-DCI Carol Chamberlain on a cold case that's suddenly sparked into light again.
20 years ago, schoolgirl Jessica Clarke was turned into a human torch, mistaken for the daughter of the gangland boss of the day - whose empire Billy Ryan would later come to inherit. But now events are taking a worrying turn: Gordon Rooker, the man who confessed and who Carol put away for the crime, is up for release, and there seems as if there's a copycat at large. Plus, Carol's getting worrying late night calls: "I burned her", a voice says in the dark.
Those already listed troubles aren't the only ones I have with Billingham's work. It's probably the fact that I've had an overexposure to this kind of book, or that the author has watched a few too many episodes of "The Bill", but everyone seems to talk in such clichéd cop-speak in an attempt to make it authentic, convincing. Unfortunately, as realistic as it may be (I've no idea, after all.) It doesn't convince me much, despite the undoubted quality of the work overall.
Still, despite all my fussy griping, this is a fantastic crime novel. It moved very quickly (some may feel too quickly), but without the expense of character or plot, which is a rare trick to pull off. Tom Thorne is certainly likeable enough, as are all the characters. Carol Chamberlain (one of a group of retired high-ranking officers who've been drafted back to work on a Cold Case Squad) is a masterly creation, and by rights should have her own series, such a unique protagonist would she make. A true original, which proves that Billingham really can do it. The plot constantly surprises, and the ending is quite simply excellent, although I pleased myself by guessing one of the twists. The final pages are very moving indeed, and in all honesty may make you cry. Give Billingham a try. I suspect that his big book is yet to come. The Burning Girl, though, is the best thing he's written since he's debut. Excellent stuff.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great police procedural, 18 July 2004
This review is from: The Burning Girl (Tom Thorne Novels) (Hardcover)
Mark Billingham has offered up a slightly different style of novel this time, much more character driven, with less focus on the thriller elements that have made his previous novels such edge-of-your-seat gripping reading.
Focussing on a gang war within London, Billingham takes the opportunity to discuss doing what is right, and allows DI Thorne to to share some more noble, esoteric views about where it is that you must draw the line in the quest to ensure a civil, ordered society. Considering the actions that Thorne himself takes in the latter portion of the book, this is more than a little ironic (although those actions too do stretch the limits of credulity). The "burning girl" of the title, and the quest to find out who set fire to her, is much more of a sub-plot, and the reveal at the end somewhat anti-climactic.
In an attempt to explore more of Thorne's character, I think Billingham has sacrificed the thriller aspects of his story. While still a good read, I hope he goes back to basics in his next novel.
I hope also that it's not a long time coming.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not Billingham's usual standard...., 6 Aug 2014
After writing 12 books, 11 of which feature DI Tom Thorne this particular one was not in my mind up to Mr Billingham's standards. Maybe I am naive, stupid, unworldly, ignorant or all of the above and then some but gang warfare just doesn't register with me and may be it should? Certainly living in Blackpool has it's challenges but I stay away from certain areas as they are deemed to be no-go areas of my town so I can image what London is like.

Reading The Burning Girl I just felt that the bad guys had won and could carry on regardless and there was nothing the Police could do as these gangs had their own form of justice and would settle their differences in their own back-yard with out the Police. The crime it's self was just heinous and as such I would have expected no less than the gallows as punishment! Bizarrely most of these mafia style gangs featured in this book are foreigners', Russians, Kurds, Albanians, Turks... in fact most from eastern Europe which says quite a lot! Involved in drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, money laundering, etc, etc...I was left feeling very frustrated and angry that Thorne was left as much helpless as I felt and for that reason I really didn't like the book.

However I do still have another 6 to read so I am not too disappointed...you are allowed at least one mistake Mr Billingham and as Thorne is my all time favourite copper I will forgive you...this time!

Thank you Mark never the less.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fourth Book in the Series, 11 Nov 2007
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham. Having worked for some years as an actor and more recently as a TV writer and stand-up comedian his first crime novel was published in 2001.
Though still occasionally working as a stand-up comic, Mark now concentrates on writing the series of crime novels featuring London-based detective Tom Thorne. Mark lives in North London with his wife and two children.

For any new readers who have not read any of Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne books, you are missing a real treat. Start reading them now, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Carol Chamberlain seeks the help of DI Tom Thorne. She was the arresting officer in a case twenty years ago and she is now retired. The case, a particularly nasty one involved a young woman, Jessica Clarke being set alight. Her attacker is still in jail but someone is harassing Carol, claiming that he was the one who set the girl alight.

The original suspect, when caught, freely admitted to the crime, so what is going on. Tom Thorne is up to the proverbial eye-balls in an investigation but is fed up with having to report his every move the DCI Tughan, so trying to help Carol out seems like a little light relief. However things soon start to turn nasty and Thorne doesn't realise just how nasty . . .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Burning Girl, 4 Oct 2013
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This is the fourth novel featuring Tom Thorne and follows Sleepyhead, Scaredy Cat and Lazybones. Carol Chamberlain, who we met in the previous book, has been brought back from retirement to work on cold cases. However, she is haunted by a case she supposedly solved years before - that of Gordon Rooker, currently in prison for setting fire to a young girl in a school playground. So why, if the criminal has been caught and convicted so long ago, has been receiving phone calls about the crime? Chamberlain turns to Thorne for help.

Rooker says that a gangster, Billy Ryan, put out a contract on the daughter of a rival - but that he burnt the wrong girl by mistake. Now he says that he is innocent of the crime and asks for protection. Meanwhile, Billy Ryan is still on the streets, running his many rackets. The story of the burning girl and the repercussions of that crime intersect with Thorne's investigation into protection rackets, gangs and human trafficking, in a good addition to the series. Mark Billingham portrays the area he writes about very well and Thorne is a well rounded character; tired, almost defeated, sometimes making bad judgements, but always trying to keep his integrity intact.
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The Burning Girl (Tom Thorne Novels)
The Burning Girl (Tom Thorne Novels) by Mark Billingham (Hardcover - 15 July 2004)
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