Title: From The Dead
Publisher: Little, Brown
Hardback: 359 pages
Publication Date: 19/08/2010
DI Tom Thorne’s problems just keep on piling up in From the Dead. His relationship with his girlfriend Louise has never fully recovered from the miscarriage she suffered prior to Bloodlines, and it limps through this book growing ever more fractious and unsustainable. But his problems are professional as well as personal. The acquittal of a man Thorne is convinced raped and murdered a young girl leaves him enraged – and his disgust is exacerbated when the man subsequently becomes a media darling. Furthermore, his DSI [a man Thorne has no respect for] farms a case onto him that he views as a complete waste of time.
Recent photos have emerged of a man believed to be Alan Langford, a criminal who supposedly died ten years before, handcuffed to the steering-wheel of a burning car [an incident that the police charmingly refer to as the ‘Epping Forest Barbecue’]. Hampered by Anna Carpenter, an amateur sleuth his DSI has lumbered on him, Thorne is faced with an investigation lacking solid evidence and facing a fugitive willing to go to any lengths to remain free and living the life of Riley in Spain [why do fictional British criminals always seem to go to Spain?].
With all this facing Thorne it’s no surprise that he’s moody and anti-social [when he starts turning down offers to go for a drink you know something’s amiss]. But vulnerable? That’s a new one for Thorne, but also part of what makes him such a great character – he’s always constantly evolving [although, unfortunately, not quite enough to make him realise the error of his ways in remaining a Spurs fan!].
The only slight gripe that I had – and it is rather petty on my part to bring this up – is that it seems unlikely that Anna [an amateur private eye] would be allowed to be involved in an ongoing police investigation. Other than that though, this book was a really great read, completely engrossing and full of tension and an unexpected revelation at its climax. But for me what really sets Billingham apart as one of the top British crime writers is his ability to lace tiny details into his novels that really add texture to his characters. Take for example the moment when Thorne waits for ten minutes on Marylebone Road so that he can avoid the congestion charge. It’s tiny little moments like this that really set some authors apart from their peers – it doesn’t affect the plot in any way, but is a humorous and authentic touch that adds huge depth to Thorne. I highly, highly recommend From the Dead and am now seriously jealous of anyone with Sky, as you’ll be able to see Thorne when he hits television in the autumn of 2010.