Die of Shame - Mark Billingham

Ok lets get one thing straight I am a big fan of Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and I think Mark Billingham has done a wonderful job in creating a flawed yet very likeable policeman. I also thought that Sleepyhead was a truly great debut story and good introduction to Thorne with his unenviable taste in music and his odd choice of friendship in the heavily tattooed pathologist Phil Hendricks. I recently reviewed and awarded 5 stars to From the Dead (Tom Thorne 9) and 4 stars to Time of Death (Tom Thorne 13)

 

Die of Shame is a departure from the Thorne series and is a standalone novel in its own right. Unfortunately it fails on many levels to make an impression on me and apart from the odd unexpected moment it will not be remembered by me as Mr Billinghams's finest hour.

 

The story revolves around the periodic meetings of a group of addicts at the home of their mentor and group leader Tony De Silva. One of the group meets an untimely and somewhat gruesome death and it is the task of DI Nicola Tanner to uncover the truth and bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately we spend little time getting to know DI Tanner and indeed the investigation seems to be secondary to the ramblings and tedious intricacies  of the various members who comprise the group meetings. The following is a typical example of the type of group exchanges that occur throughout and seem to me to be totally at odds with what we should be concerned with ie solving the murder!...."Can I suggest that rage is only part of it? It's needy, Heather says. I really don't mean that in a negative way. I promise. Obviously you feel angry, but I think you basically want to be reassured that it wasn't your fault. That's what the drinking was really about."

 

There are some high moments, I especially enjoyed when Tanner had to consult with pathologist Hendricks and I was eager to see what her first impressions would be and how she would react to his flamboyance "Phillip Hendricks was not Tanner's favourite pathologist. There was no question about his competence or diligence, but he could be a little....flashy. Quite literally sometimes, if one of his facial piercings caught the light in the post-mortem suite. Who knew how many piercings, tattoos everywhere, the shaved head. If felt showy to Tanner, unnecessary. It seemed wholly unsuitable considering the nature of his job."

 

I felt the author should have explored Tanner's personal and work life in greater detail following her thinking as she attempted to unravel and solve a complex investigation. That said the conclusion of the story was both exciting and totally unexpected, a masterstroke by Billingham who caught me totally unaware and made me smile in equal measure. I received a free copy of this book for and honest review and that is what I have written.