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From The Dead (Tom Thorne Novels) Paperback – 17 Mar 2011
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When speaking to book groups, the author Mark Billingham displays the kind of sardonic humour that reflects his background in stand-up comedy. But his highly professional crime novels featuring DI Tom Thorne are quite unlike the humorous crime writing of such authors as Christopher Brookmyre. Books such as the latest Thorne, From the Dead, are odysseys into the darkest reaches of human behaviour. It's interesting that Billingham's books have a reputation for extreme violence, as they actually deal more in the purveying of atmosphere – a real sense of dread is unerringly conveyed to the reader.
A man is burnt to death in a car in Epping Forest, the victim of professional hitmen. The evidence suggest that the dead man’s wife, Donna Langford, hired the killers, and she is found guilty of conspiracy to murder. A decade passes, and just before her release from prison, Donna is sent a photo: it is that of her supposedly murdered spouse. Is he, in fact, dead? And if not, whose was the charred body in the burnt-out Jaguar? Shortly after, DI Tom Thorne is contacted by a woman, Anna Carpenter. Anna is making a living (and hating it) by working for a detective agency that cynically uses her as a ‘pretend prostitute’ to trap men into sexually compromising set-ups in divorce cases. Anna is on the side of the worried Donna Langford, and asks a reluctant Thorne for help. The detective is not to be persuaded – until he realises that the supposedly late Alan Langford is very much alive, and wants payback – in the worst way.
Mark Billingham is (as ever) to be applauded for the sheer readability of his work on From the Dead, but his most impressive achievement is the sure-footed orchestration of tension. He avoids artificially pushing Thorne into uncharactistic behaviour, and trusts that we will accept the familiar character tropes, delivered as effectively as ever. But if there are no surprises in the development of his main protagonist, Billingham’s real achievement here is in the creation of the vulnerable, compromised tyro detective, Anna – she’s a wonderful creation. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
'While Billingham has well and truly mastered the modern police procedural, the thing that sets him apart from the crowd is not just his emotional insight, but the way he invariably packs such a heart-wrenching punch... Billingham's most desperately gripping read yet (Mirror)
As fictional detectives go, Thorne is one of the most believable and Billingham's deserved status as a world-class crime fiction writer will surely be confirmed when a new television series based on some of his novels is aired this autumn (Daily Mail)
Billingham is well aware that we're au fait with most police procedural scenarios and is always working to ring clever and inventive changes on the formula...the tension is fine-tuned with all the usual skill (Daily Express)
Most fictional sleuths are flawed but invariably triumphant; Billingham is unusually willing to show his series hero making blunder after blunder (Sunday Times)
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Top Customer Reviews
DI Tom Thorne is initially not interested, as he is caught up in the case of a missing girl and the prosecution of the man he is certain murdered her, but eventually with pressure from the top he commences an investigation constantly dogged by Anna.
Whilst the story line - faking ones own death is not new, I found the story engrossing. The characterisation is excellent. Tom Thorne, is not a hero, but a man trying to do a difficult job and maintain a relationship that he is not sure is going anywhere, but he is still hanging in. Anna Carpenter, an engaging character who bored with working in a bank threw it all up for excitement and ended up in a run-down detective agency. It's real it's what happens.
A page turner - yes, I had to sit up and finish it!
The main story is about a woman released from prison ten years after being found guilty of conspiring to murder her gangster husband, whose body was found in a burnt-out Jaguar. Very soon she starts receiving photographs of him taken recently, showing him to be very much alive and well. At first the 'widow' appoints a flaky and amateurish private investigator to find out what's going on, and to find her missing teenage daughter who had been in foster care during the imprisonment period. It's not long before Thorne gets involved, still smarting from what he and his colleagues perceive as a miscarriage of justice in an unrelated missing teenager investigation and murder trial. The 'undead' gangster appears to be living it large in Spain, so that's where Thorne heads, helped by the Spanish Guardia Civil.
It's a good story and well-told, with interesting sub-strands such as Thorne's relationship with his live-in girlfriend Louise, but it's a little light on tension or suspense. Not much in the way of mystery or thrills either, come to think about it. Deep into the novel, I realised that what few unanswered questions that still prevailed boiled down to these: Who sent the photographs, and why? And that was rather unimportant anyway, and predictable as it turned out. So what this tale depended on, as is often the case with crime fiction series, was the enigmatic draw of its leading character Tom Thorne.Read more ›
Thanks for an enjoyable read Karrie.
Thorne ends up in Spain on this occasion tracking a fugitive who was presumed dead. There is also a secondary story which closes well with a twist.
As always, there is no difficulty turning the pages here although the usual tension and excitement are missing. Surprisingly, there is very little Thorne does or thinks to blow open the case. I also felt there was far too much filler material as he journeyed through Spain.
I liked travelling with Thorne through the story, but overall the usual bite wasn't there, in my view. That said, I like Billingham's writing style and Thorne's character, so will pick up as new stories are released. 7/10
(P.S. The Kindle version I read had formatting problems - down to 4 or 5 sentences on some pages - but they were not bad enough to spoil the experience).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
not read it yet but if its as good has all his other books I will be delightedPublished 1 month ago by geoffrey woodward
once again Mark hits the nail on the head. i must admit sometimes when i start one of his books, i think is this going to be a flop. but no. he has never let me down. hey everyone. Read morePublished 1 month ago by frank
The other reviews have given a breakdown of the story line, so I just have to say how much I enjoyed reading another DI Tom Thorne story, it had the usual pace and Mark makes the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by phillie
I have read 'From The Dead' by Mark Billingham and I give it 5 stars. A very good read.Published 2 months ago by Geordie