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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Realism
Lifeless is very gritty and bleak thriller that really encapsulates the life of the homeless on the streets of London through the eyes of Tom Thorne going undercover to try and track down a ruthless serial killer targeting the rough sleepers. A military link is quickly established as the main motive, drawing on a very topical subject of the time with the abuse of...
Published on 29 Dec. 2010 by Steve Horsfall - Author / Writer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Middle of the road
I like Tom Thorne, really I do...but for some reason this latest instalment was slow going. The premise sounded pretty good, but with the recent loss of his Dad, it seems Tom is somewhat on the edge. He is on Gardening leave, but when the opportunity comes up to go undercover within the London homeless community he can’t resist. The writing is fabulous and to be...
Published 14 days ago by Best Crime Books


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Realism, 29 Dec. 2010
Lifeless is very gritty and bleak thriller that really encapsulates the life of the homeless on the streets of London through the eyes of Tom Thorne going undercover to try and track down a ruthless serial killer targeting the rough sleepers. A military link is quickly established as the main motive, drawing on a very topical subject of the time with the abuse of prisoners by the military. Billingham ensures that well know landmarks serve as a backdrop to the plot and therefore ensures an even great sense of realism for the reader. Central to the plot is Thorne adapting to life on the streets and his friendship with drug addict Spike, and from where he is able to observe and comment on both the homeless community and his police colleagues. Nice little twist in the end.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lifeless, Mark Billingham, 3 Mar. 2005
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Someone's killing homeless people. That's the basic thrust of Billingham's new novel, his fifth to feature DI Thorne. Thorne himself has been shunted aside, a bit out of favour with his bosses and still getting over the death of his elderly father, which he will never be certain wasn't murder. He's most definitely "having a rest" - until, eager to be in the thick of the action, he volunteers to go undercover out onto the streets of London, posing as one of the many homeless, to try and garner vital information about the killings which show no signs of stopping. Understandable, much is made of the perhaps precarious nature of Thorne's mental wellbeing, especially as he throws himself into his mission with such gusto and, well, enthusiasm. (The fact is, it's probably quite good for him, I think.)
I'm undergoing somewhat of a disaffect with serial killer novels right now, so I wasn't too sure about this book, especially after The Burning Girl, which veered away from that sub-genre completely, and broke entirely new and refreshing ground for the series. The fact is that if Billingham sticks with serial killers then he's never going to better his first book (and so far, he hasn't - but his last came close). I was pleased, then, that this book, despite its initial conceit of strings of homeless people being killed, steers away that, and is ultimately better for it. (Though, I suspect, the exposited motivation for some of the killings is less accurate than the simple fact Billingham had to have them in order to maintain a selling point, an original angle.) Lifeless is a clever, topical, intelligent crime novel, another point on Billingham's arc of growing maturity that started with Lazybones.
One of the central problems I have personally with Billingham's series is Tom Thorne. While I like him, and I concede (quite willingly) that the psychological development of the character through recent books - and through this one in particular - is fascinating and excellently wrought on Billingham's part, he is nothing new or special, he is nothing that we haven't seen so, so many times before (and, to be honest, better). He doesn't extend the constant pull of interest that some other detectives do, purely because I don't feel that there's anything new in him: he seems almost to be a likeable composite of so many other detectives. I never anticipate Billingham's book because of the protagonist, as I do with Rankin or Mankell. Fortunately, Billingham's plots are usually enough to keep me riveted anyway.
Aside from the journey Thorne's character seems to be on, the real triumph of this novel is Billingham's portrait of the immense landscape of homelessness. It's superbly done. The general atmosphere, and the characters involved (particularly the young couple Spike and Caroline whom Thorne befriends) are written brilliantly, touching yet not sentimental, always emptily sad. It's never less than clear that this environment is harsh and dangerous, Thorne somewhat crazy for so willingly immersing himself in it.
It's a book that's better than I'd thought it would be, but not quite as good as Billingham has shown himself capable of. Still, it's a surprising, satisfying crime novel, with a nice sizeable dollop of societal analysis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Middle of the road, 13 May 2015
By 
Best Crime Books "Best Crime Books" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Lifeless (Tom Thorne Novels) (Paperback)
I like Tom Thorne, really I do...but for some reason this latest instalment was slow going. The premise sounded pretty good, but with the recent loss of his Dad, it seems Tom is somewhat on the edge. He is on Gardening leave, but when the opportunity comes up to go undercover within the London homeless community he can’t resist. The writing is fabulous and to be honest this book made me realise just how bad the homeless situation in this country really is. From that perspective Billingham has done a stellar job, however when it comes to Thorne, by the end all I wanted to do was slap him around the chops and tell him to get a grip.

The crux of this latest book is that it seems a killer is targeting homeless people. With the homeless community closing ranks Tom Thorne elects to become ‘homeless’ and befriend some of the people on the street with the hope of getting clues on what people know and have seen. I really like recurring characters and Tom’s colleague Dave Holland is no exception. It seems that even Holland is becoming tired of Thorne’s transformation. The story rumbled along and there were moments that the suspense ratcheted up, but then it seemed to die off and I didn’t feel the same oomph that I did when I read his first book Sleepyhead.

Overall, this latest instalment was a decent read, but certainly not enough to grab me by the short and curlies! I love the characters and MB’s writing is great, I just felt like this book lacked its normal magic, so I will hope that the next book recaptures that by the bucketload.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billingham back on form....., 11 Aug. 2014
Billingham is back on track after the disappointment of The Burning Girl (in my eyes anyway) previously. Although not quite a serial killer type book it never the less explores the life of the homeless on London’s' streets where Thorne volunteers to go undercover whilst trying to catch a killer who is killing ex-military personal who have become homeless.

Aside from the fantastic tour around London streets which I have come to know during my own travels to the capital over the years, this novel certainly covers different ground for Billingham and I have to say it is a very welcome change.

Thorne feels at rock bottom emotionally and physically after his last case did not pan out as he'd hoped and he got in to trouble with his superiors, the death of his Father in a fire which he is not certain was an accident or deliberate and I think his all-round lethargy of over work, over weight and single with no woman for company (and everyone knows that a man cannot live alone...lol) contribute to his overall state.

Befriending Spike and one day Caroline, two young drug addicts, Throne although initially finds life on the street extremely difficult, it is not long before he begins to understand why people do become homeless and what drives them to become addicts. Dare I say it but I got the feeling that Thorne could quite easily have fallen in to this life style eventually if left abandoned. It's not difficult to just go with the flow if there is nothing left to hold on to.

I enjoyed the book because it was different and explored unknown areas of atrocities committed in battle which a lot of people would rather cover up due to their very nature.

Highly recommended reading, thank you Mark.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lifeless Story, 18 Mar. 2006
By 
O E J - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This is Mark Billingham's fifth and latest novel featuring DI Tom Thorne, with Buried (number six) due out in mid-2006.

Thorne's been on gardening leave since the death of his father last year which also gives him time to recover from his previous experiences detailed in The Burning Girl, the author's fourth novel. In Lifeless, Thorne offers to go undercover and live on the streets of London to help track down a serial killer who kicks dozing dossers to death. It emerges that the link between the murders is an event that took place during the Gulf War in 1991, one that was captured on a videotape and which falls conveniently into the hands of the police. So the storyline is a whodunit along with the motives behind the brutal killings.

I still don't think that Mark Billingham has bettered his debut novel Sleepyhead. His writing is always readable and worthy of purchase, but he seems to be running out of fresh ideas. Lifeless is quite consistent, never boring but if it comes under the category of suspense thriller then there is little to be found of either - murder mystery would be a safer classification but the only characters I found myself relating to or caring about were the regulars of Thorne, Holland, Brigstocke, Hendricks and Kitson. All the other characters - victims, suspects and backing-crew - are generally forgettable characters which left me unconcerned when another body is found and unmoved when the penny drops and Thorne nails the baddie.

I suppose I must be considered a fan since I have bought every one of this author's books but I won't buy his next. It's just that I have this feeling that he could work harder at the plot and create a more multi-layered work of fiction with more wide-ranging and inter-twining events and characters. I have a feeling that Mark Billingham's inspiration to write came in part from Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs and in his first book Sleepyhead he made a pretty good attempt of producing something worthy of comparison - it's arguably his only truly original piece of writing. He's gone off the boil a bit since then, in my opinion, producing relatively mainstream murder mysteries but I think if he really put his mind to it he could emulate and even better his debut novel. This one is as lifeless as its title.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billingham's best, 4 April 2005
By 
J. A. J. Mullinger (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Mark Billingham's latest novel is without a doubt his best yet. I honestly cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a book as much as this. This novel manages that rare feat; to be thrilling, hilarious, moving and socially aware. To reveal any of the plot would spoil enjoyment but suffice to say if you are a fan of crime novels, you will relish this. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lifeless, 24 Jun. 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
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This is the fifth Tom Thorne novel and it sees him struggling both at work and in his personal life. After the death of his father, Thorne has been struggling to come to terms with his loss and finds himself shunted into a miserable desk job for which he has no interest in or patience with. When a colleague sounds him out about a string of violent murders of homeless men, on the streets of London, Thorne rashly suggests that he go undercover.

Once on the streets, Thorne begins to search for a link between the victims and eventually discovers something in the past which has led to the killings. However, apart from the actual crime story, this is also an exploration of why people end up on the streets. When Thorne muses that many people are literally two pay cheques away from ending up homeless, it is no exaggeration, and the author does a good job of portraying the life of the homeless in London – the boredom, the discomfort and the fear. I have to say that the character of Thorne himself is what makes me return to this series and I find him more likeable every time. Well plotted, with a good cast of characters, this is a well above average crime series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A return to form, 4 April 2013
By 
Stacey Woods (Poole, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Lifeless (Tom Thorne Novels) (Paperback)
Lifeless is the fifth book in the excellent Tom Thorne series by Mark Billingham and opens as Thorne is trying to deal with his father's death at the end of the previous book, The Burning Girl. To his colleagues, friends and even himself, Thorne seems to be on the verge of a breakdown and when homeless men turn up kicked to death on the streets of London, he volunteers to go undercover as one of life's rejects - a part he seems strangely suited for given his state of mind.

As Thorne begins to forge basic allegiances with other rough-sleepers, he begins to hear that a police officer has already been sniffing around - could the killer be one of the Met's own?

Lifeless is another great addition to the Tom Thorne series and it's interesting to see him in a different state of mind to his usual one. In previous books he was always a bit of a loose cannon and distracted from the job by worries about his dad who had Alzheimer's, but to see him now in the stages of grief, wondering if he could have done more or if his father's death was as a result of his work. It's an interesting dynamic in a lead character and his decision to go onto the streets seems more desperate than considered.

I won't go as far as to say that this was my favourite book of the series so far, but it was certainly good to look at the familiar characters through new eyes, namely their reaction to Thorne's undercover operation and their worries about his mental state. The theme of homelessness and how we can all potentially end up there through circumstances out of our control is writ large, with that in itself described in harrowing detail, even without the threat of a murderer on the loose.

The Tom Thorne series is really back on form, so I'm really looking forward to the next one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent entry in the series, 22 Sept. 2012
Put simply, this is an excellent DI Tom Thorne novel, after the disappointment of `The Burning Girl' Billingham's detective series has hit its stride again.

This is both brutal and harrowing. London's streets have never been meaner. With believable characters like Spike and Caz, together with its social commentary, Lifeless is a thought-provoking novel without ever getting preachy.

I was worried that the series was running out of steam, but this one hits like a sledgehammer and attacks your conscience. Highlighting as it does, a very real, centuries old problem: homelessness.

These are the invisible, maligned people wandering the streets; here vilified and abused. Billingham's London is a city within a city: that of the affluent and that of the downtrodden (or just plain unfortunate through circumstance).

Lifeless had me hooked right from the off. There is a real sense that everything really is on the line for Thorne this time - his life is in jeopardy as he lives on the edge.

Clearly a novel that deals with war crimes, drug use and addiction, random savage beatings and murder, was never going to be an easy read. But thanks to his literary skill, Billingham draws you in to this very dark world, on a journey through London's underbelly, light-years from the tourist guide version of the capital.

As it races to a scorching grandstanding finale, this book put me in no doubt that it is the best in the series to date.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Number Five in the Thorne Series, 29 Nov. 2007
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Lifeless (Hardcover)
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.

It would seem, even those who know him best, that Thorne's career has reached it's peak and is now on the long steep slide to disaster. He has always flirted with trouble with his superiors but on his last case he overstepped the mark and someone up in that ivory tower has suggested he take a break to take stock of both himself and his career.

Someone appears to be making a target of London's homeless, so with time on his hands Thorne decides to go undercover amongst them, after all if things carry on the way they are, he may be one of them shortly.

Thorne soon finds out that these are no random killings, they are being perpetrated by someone with a very specific purpose. Then all of a sudden it becomes common knowledge that a copper is working amongst them, not good news for Thorne . . .
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Lifeless (Tom Thorne Novels)
Lifeless (Tom Thorne Novels) by Mark Billingham (Paperback - 1 Mar. 2012)
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