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.