I love reading crime fiction and began reading Mark Billingham’s book quite a while ago. After taking a break, I recently picked up again with book for in the Tom Thorne series, The Burning Girl. I can’t really think now why I took such a long break, but I’m so glad I got back into them.
The Burning Girl opens with a quite harrowing scene in which a girl is set on fire in her school playground and it turns out that this is being remembered by former DCI Carol Chamberlain who investigated the case of the burning girl, Jessica Clarke, years before, and put away Gordon Rooker for doing it. The twist is that she has been getting suspicious phone calls and midnight visits from a man who claims that he was the one that burned her. Has she got the wrong man?
When Chamberlain turns to Tom Thorne for help he is willing to lend a hand, but has enough on his plate with a gangland feud and bodies turning up marked with an X on their backs. Can Tom give his attention to both the old and new cases without dropping the ball?
As I said, I was really pleased to pick up this book and I’ve since read the next one (more later…) too. It was a really good re-introduction to Tom Thorne, who is still as oddly likeable, despite his best efforts, than ever. His traumatic last case has left physical and mental scars on him, but he is trying his best to keep it all together, including supporting his Dad who has Alzheimer’s disease.
The supporting cast – Dave, Phil and Russell – are present too and offer Thorne counsel whether he wants it or not, but it was actually nice to learn a little more about their personal lives too.
What I liked best about the novel was the short pieces we were shown from the point-of-view of Jessica Clarke, the victim in Carol’s case. It turns out that Jessica was not the intended victim of the original attack, but still had to live with the consequences. Thorne visits her father to get some background on her and he gives Thorne Jessica’s diary. The snippets we get to read are the thoughts of a typical teenage girl, yet tinged with bitterness at her situation, and at other times with humour in the normal process of coming to terms with what happened to her. It really feels quite wrenching when you realise that the last few snippets are leading up to Jessica’s eventual suicide, but these parts are nice additions, breaking up the focus on the bad guys and adding a human face to the whole thing.
Mark Billingham’s books are definitely back on my reading list – I’ll have to start catching up, as I see from his Twitter page that there is a new Tom Thorne novel currently at the proof stage. *must read faster*