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Tom Thorne

COMPETITION . . . Win the new Tom Thorne novel!

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First up, read my review of Their Little Secret. Back in the day when I was too busy earning a living to be able to spend time on a book review website, I had to get books from my local library. One of the authors I revered the most was Mark Billingham, and my joy at finding an unread Tom Thorne novel on the ‘B’ shelves of the Crime Fiction section was genuine.

I’ll be quite blunt now. Running this website doesn’t bring in any money, and the only costs to me are the postage when sending out competition prizes. BUT – and it’s a huge BUT – publishers and publicists trust me with their books, and I have a lovely To Be Read pile thanks to their generosity. Occasionally, I’m able to read a book on my Kindle while still having a print copy of the novel in question. Then, I usually offer the untouched book as a competition prize. So who fancies Their Little Secret?

Ican’t make it too random, so here’s a little decider. You can answer by email to fullybooked2016@yahoo.com putting Their Little Secret in the subject box. Alternatively, you can follow Fully Booked on Twitter, and send me your answer as a private message. Don’t just Tweet the answer, as you will give the game away! Tom Thorne loves his music, but which genre is he most likely to put on his CD player at the end of a long day, when he slumps on his sofa with a beer in hand? Make your choice and let me know your answer. The competition will close at 10.00pm UK time on Sunday 12th May, and a winner will be drawn from the digital hat.

Tom Thorne’s favourite music is ….?

Baroque

or is it …

Death Metal

or could it be …

Country

or how about …?

Celtic

 BEST OF LUCK – AND HAPPY READING!

THEIR LITTLE SECRET . . . Between the covers

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mark-billinghamLondon copper DI Tom Thorne has been entertaining us since his debut in Sleepyhead (2001). His creator, Mark Billingham, (left) has developed an enviably reliable repertory company of other players who share the stage with the main man. There is his best mate Phil Hendricks, a pathologist who, despite being gay, supporting Arsenal against Thorne’s beloved Spurs and having piercings in places where most folk don’t even have places, is the voice of sanity in Thorne’s often chaotic world. Thorne’s love interest (from whom he is currently living apart) is Helen, another police officer, but one who works in the traumatic world of child protection. Nicola Tanner is Thorne’s professional partner and they have history, but not one that either reflects on with much pleasure. Tanner’s partner Susan was brutally killed in a previous episode, and her death hangs over the pair like a pall.

Their Little Secret begins with the much-loved trope of an apparent suicide which is viewed with suspicion by the central character. This time, however, it is slightly different. When a woman goes fatally head-to-head with an underground train, there is no suspicion that she was physically pushed, but Thorne believes that something traumatic – and criminal – tipped her over the edge in both sense of the phrase. He discovers that she had been targeted by a conman who had relieved her of a large sum of money and then disappeared, leaving her heartbroken, ashamed of her own gullibility and with her self-respect shredded. Despite the reluctance of his boss to spend any more time (and money) on the case, Thorne discovers that Philippa Goodwin is not the first victim of the conman.

TLSIn an ostensibly unconnected narrative thread, Billingham introduces us to a Sarah, a vulnerable single mum who is anxious to gain the approval of other mums with whom she waits at the primary school gate twice each day. They seem confident, successful and financially comfortable. Sarah tries to join in with their daily sojourn at a pretentious ‘artisan’ coffee shop after the morning school run, but she still feels like the outsider. Her world is just herself and her son Jamie, and she struggles to compete with the gossip and banter that fly like sparks between Karen, Caroline, Savita and Heather. Until. Until the day when, sitting apart at her own table in HazBeanz, Sarah is chatted up by distinctly fanciable slightly older fellow. Almost instantly, Sarah finds the others anxious to swap phone numbers in return for daily updates about the new romance.

So, we can all see where this is going, yes? Sarah is about to become the latest victim of the romantic predator who Thorne and Tanner will eventually track down and bring to justice? At this point, I will disengage from the plot so as not to spoil things. Suffice it to say that Billingham plays the Pied Piper, and we are the innocent children of Hamelin.

If you are new to the world of Tom Thorne, don’t dismiss this book as just another police procedural. Yes, the atmosphere of the Incident Room, the evidence gathering, the financial pressures and the grim fare of the police canteen – everything is just as it should be, authentic and convincing. But Billingham gives us so much more. Thorne is, in some ways, unlovely. He can be insensitive, self-centred and, it has to be said, something of a slob. His impulsiveness has got him – and others – into bother on more than one occasion, and as for his musical obsession with the lonesome highway world of Hank Williams, you must be your own judge. Earlier novels in the series told of Thorne’s impotent distress at the decline of his father as dementia took hold and turned a fine mind into mush. As middle age peaks and ‘the other side’ beckons, he still dreams of his mum and dad. He is not alone.

There is poetry within the pages of any Tom Thorne novel. It may be brutally comic, and it may be poignant and stark. Thorne recalls the first suicide he had to attend:

“It had been a teenage girl, that first one. A slip of a thing dangling from the branch of an oak tree in Victoria Park. A ripped blue dress and legs like sticks and the muddy heels of her trainers kissing.”

On a grimly humorous note, Thorne/Billingham has a sour take on the pretentiousness of the middle class London enclave of Shoreditch:

“ It was all a little ….full of itself for his liking. ‘Dirty’ burgers, whatever they were, and shops knocking out overpriced tat that was probably meant to be ironic. A few too many gastropubs serving parsnip dust or garlic foam and more artisan bakeries than you could shake a shiitake mushroom at.”

Their Little Secret is a masterpiece of misdirection, suspense and contains as convincing a portrayal of insanity as I have read in many a long year. Tom Thorne is the perfect hero for our troubled times. Emotionally and professionally, he ploughs a lonely furrow, but his honesty and – sometimes clumsy –  care for those he loves are deeply moving. Their Little Secret is published by Little, Brown and will be available from 2nd May.

More of Tom Thorne and Mark Billingham here.

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BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2018 . . . (4) Best police procedural

The Fully Booked review of Mark Billingham’s The Killing Habit is just a click away:
https://fullybooked2017.com/2018/05/22/the-killing-habit-between-the-covers/

THE KILLING HABIT . . . Between the covers.

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Mark Billingham’s perpetually disgruntled and discomforted London copper DI Tom Thorne returns in The Killing Habit for another three way battle. Three way? Yes, of course, because Thorne and his resolute allies sit on their stools in one corner of the triangular boxing ring, while in the blue corner are his politically correct bosses. In the red corner, of course, are the various chancers, petty and not-so-petty crooks who challenge the law on a daily basis.

TKHThe Thorne novels have a recurring cast list. As Salvatore Albert Lombino, aka Ed McBain said, quoting a 1917 popular song, “Hail, Hail, The Gang’s All Here!” Indeed they are. Its members include Helen, Tom Thorne’s long suffering partner plus little boy Alfie, and the bizarrely tattooed and pierced Mancunian pathologist Phil Hendricks. We have Nicola Tanner the police officer scarred by the murder of her alcoholic partner, Susan, and the perpetually cautious DCI Russell Brigstocke. Between them, they pursue two killers; one who murders losers-in-the-Game-of-Life on the periphery of a drugs gang, and another who seems to be targeting lonely women via a match-making service.

It’s a staple of serial killer crime fiction that the bad guy starts out as a youngster by pulling wings off flies or torturing hamsters before graduating to ever darker deeds. Either that, or he is the victim of some terrible childhood trauma which poisons his view of humanity. I say ‘he’ and realise that I may be risking the wrath of the Equal Opportunities Police here, but I don’t recall reading a novel about female mass murderers. They may be out there. Numbered among their ranks may be homicidal Two Spirit Persons or Gender Fluid Otherkins. I do not know. If I have offended any potential killers by using the wrong pronoun, please accept my (almost) sincere apologies.

But I digress. Billingham puts Thorne on the trail of a serial killer – of cats. Why on earth? Two reasons. One is that nothing inflames the fury of Middle England like the killing of domestic animals. The debate that compares this crime with that of the murder of humans is for another day, but Billingham recognises that we are more likely to become incandescent over the death of a domestic pet than the death of a child. The second reason I have already suggested. If someone is waging a covert war on cats, is this just a prelude to something far, far worse? Indeed, it seems so. A succession of women meet their deaths at the hands of a killer who has hacked into the database of Made In Heaven, a low-rent match-making website.

Billingham gives us a parallel plot which eventually converges with the main story. A shadowy but powerful criminal organisation smuggles addictive synthetic drugs into British prisons. The recipients, grateful at the time, are eventually released into the wider world owing the gang an impossible amount of money, repayable only by becoming foot soldiers of the gang itself. An elderly woman, known only as “The Duchess” plays Postman Patricia in this deadly cycle of addiction and dependence and, when her role as amiable ‘auntie’ visiting prisoners is exposed, the connection between the drug scam and the dating killer is made.

As with every Mark Billingham novel, The Killing Habit is incisively written, impeccably authentic as a police procedural and, above all, totally human. No character walks onto the stage without their weaknesses and their frailties becoming exposed in the icy blue of the spotlight. We are not reading about cardboard cut-out people here: they are real, fallible and convincing. They may even be living a couple of doors down from you.

1430895baJust when you think that he has provided all the answers to the complex plot, and the characters are, to quote the only bit of Milton I can remember from ‘A’ Level, “calm of mind and all passion spent,” Billingham (right) provides a breathtaking epilogue which, in addition to turning my preconception on its head, (feel free to add your own metaphor) bites you on the bum, punches you in the gut, hits you over the head with a piece of four by two, takes the wind out of your sails and grabs you by the short-and-curlies. Hopefully recovering from this multiple assault, you will be hard pushed to disagree with me that this is a brilliant crime thriller written by a master storyteller at the very top of his game.

The Killing Habit is published by Litte, Brown and will be available on 14th June. For a review of the previous Tom Thorne novel, click the link to Love Like Blood.

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ON MY SHELF . . . May 2018 (2)

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LONDON, TOKYO, ROME, RURAL ENGLAND, WASHINGTON DC – and TRANSYLVANIA! Anyone fancy a round the world trip via the pages of crime and mystery thrillers? If so, stay tuned. We are hardly ten days into May, and the intriguing books keep thudding onto my front door-mat.

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Kill Angel

rocambolesqueTHEY SAY THAT YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN – and reading the Amazon description of Dazieri’s novels I came across the amazing word Rocambolesque. As ever, Google had an answer of sorts, and I am now waiting for the opportunity to drop the word into casual conversation with my friends and family. That aside, Dazieri returns with another case for detectives Torre and Caselli. An express train from Milan arrives in Rome, but several of its passengers and train crew won’t be disembarking, at least without the help of medical teams, stretchers and body bags. This is Italian Noir at its finest, and not for the faint of heart. Published by Simon & Schuster, Kill The Angel is translated by Anthony Shugaar, and is out now.

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TBF

I’LL RISK A SMALL WAGER WITH YOU. I say a word, and you respond instantly with another word. Yes, I know, it’s that old word association game associated with bogus psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Anyway, I have written two words on a slip of paper, and I win if either is the word you come up with. Ready? OK, here goes…

“TRANSYLVANIA”

VVIf you said either “Dracula” or “Vampire”, I win. But maybe you’ve been reading the novel by Irish-Hungarian actress and poet, Vivienne Vermes? If so, you’ll know that her novel The Barefoot Road definitely doesn’t involve teeth, cloaks, garlic or unconventional blood transfusions. It dos however, involve blood which is shed by violence. A young woman is found near a Romanian village. She is unconscious, half -starved, and barely alive. She is from an ethnic group which were brutally expelled by the ancestors of the present villagers. Humanity temporarily triumphs over tribal bigotry and she is nursed back to health, but when she begins a relationship with one of the villagers, and a child disappears, the embers of old hatreds burst into flames. The Barefoot Road is published by Matador, and is available as a Kindle or a paperback.

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WHO WANTS TOM THORNE? . . . Prize Draw

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TOM THORNE, ANYONE …? Our February giveaway is a crisp new paperback edition of Mark Billingham’s hard-hitting Love Like Blood. Now, read carefully, because this is is a pretty difficult competition. Here’s what you must do. I’ve broken it down into easy steps. Ready?

  1. email Fully Booked at fullybooked2016@yahoo.com
  2. Put the words ‘Tom Thorne’ in the subject box

ALTERNATIVELY

1. Go to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FullyBooked2017/
2. Click ‘like’ on the feature for the competition.

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Phew! Seriously though, it’s that easy. The competition closes at 2200 hrs on Sunday 4th March. One entry per person, naturally, and I will draw the winner’s name out of the digital hat and let them know the good news!

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ON MY SHELF . . . February 2018

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I am writing this on a cold Friday evening in Fenland where hopes of a Spring just around the corner have been dashed by weather warnings of severe cold over the next few days. Despite this, publishers are coming out of their winter quarters to prepare for the Spring Offensive, and thus we have four tasty novels on offer here.

LOVE LIKE BLOOD by MARK BILLINGHAM

BillinghamThis is the paperback edition of the Tom Thorn novel which came out in June 2017 and was reviewed on Fully Booked here. Suffice to say that it tackles head on one of the most iniquitous so-called cultural practices prevalent in the diverse Britain of the Twenty First Century. It is hard to avoid using the grossly inappropriate term ‘honour killing’ but until someone comes up with something more fitting, it will have to do. Love Like Blood will be out on 8th March as a Sphere paperback, and will set you back £5.99. HOWEVER, we will be running a prize draw to win a copy, so watch out for alerts on Twitter and Facebook.

MUNICH (THE MAN WHO SAID NO)  by DAVID LAWS

David LawsIn this imaginative retelling of the now infamous events in the Bavarian capital in 1938, David Laws gives us a young present-day researcher trying to find out the truth about her grandfather’s part in a series of meetings which shaped history. What evidence did he have that Neville Chamberlain was being duped by Hitler? Why did he almost certainly give his life to prevent the deal going through? Emma Drake finds the answer not in dusty telegrams or carbon copied communiques, but in a present day forest just fifty miles from the site of the lasting testament to Nazi infamy – Oświęcim. Munich is published by Matador, is out now, and will cost you £8.99.

THE TEMPTATION OF FORGIVENESS  by DONNA LEON

DonnaLeonFrom the grim and silent testimony of a Polish forest to the bustling and utterly cosmopolitan world of Venice, courtesy of Donna Leon and her immensely popular Italian copper, Commissario Guido Brunetti. It seems barely credible that this is number twenty seven – no, that’s no misprint, 27 – in the series. While trying to discover the source of an information leak from within his own department, and investigating the savage attack on a family friend, Brunetti seeks solace – and a possible solution – from the pages of Sophocles’ Antigone. The Temptation of Forgiveness will be out on 5 April from William Heinemann/Cornerstone in Kindle and hardback. The paperback edition will be out in the autumn of 2018.

AMERICAN BY DAY by DEREK B MILLER

Derek B MillerMiller created quite a stir with his debut novel, Norwegian By Night, and now he aims to repeat the  achievement with the story of Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård who has to leave her native Norway and travel to America to find the truth behind her brother’s disappearance. In addition to apparently disappearing off the face of the earth, he is implicated in the death of a prominent African-American academic. And this is 2008, election year, nerves are in shreds, and across the political world innocent mistakes are treated as mortal insults. In addition to plying her police officer skills, Sigrid Ødegård needs to learn a whole new set of behavioural responses if she is to get the the bottom of her brother’s disappearance. American By Day is published by Transworld/Doubleday and will be available on 19 April.

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LOVE LIKE BLOOD … Between the covers

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For those customers who boarded the Tom Thorne Express (driven by Mark Billingham) at the last station, here is the story so far. Tom Thorne is a middle-aged policeman currently – and probably permanently – of Detective Inspector rank. His home turf is predominantly North London, but he has survived being busted down to uniform, and banished to that godless region south of the Thames. He is a maverick’s maverick. Grumpy, impulsive, reckless, no respecter of seniority, but grudgingly admired by fellow officers who know a good copper when they see one. He lives with a child protection officer and her young son. His long time best mate is pathologist Phil Hendricks who is totally conventional apart from his addiction to body piercings, tattoos, and the Gay lifestyle. Of Thorne’s many vices, the one which exasperates his friends more than anything is his passion for country music, where his drug of choice is Hank Williams. Thorne tries not to give the many ghosts in his past free reign, but the spectre that haunts him the most is that of his late father, who suffered a long and ultimately fatal slide down into the hell of dementia.

LLB coverNow, Thorne becomes involved in another kind of hell on earth, and one where all absent devils have been called home, all leave cancelled, and any recently retired fallen angels pressed back into duty. The fires stoked in this particular hellish pit illuminate the ghastly world inhabited by some British Asian communities who sanction murder in the name of their warped concept of family honour. Among the ghosts which inhabit the darker parts of Thorne’s memory is that of Meena Athwal. She was killed, he is certain, at the behest of her family, but her death remains unavenged in a court of justice.

Thorne is approached by a fellow officer, Nicola Tanner. Her partner, schoolteacher Susan Best, has been murdered in their shared home, and Tanner is convinced that it is a case of mistaken identity. She believes that the killers are a pair of professional murderers she is tracking for their role in so-called ‘Honour Killings’. Tanner wants Thorne’s help because she thinks his sheer bloody-mindedness and contempt for procedure will cut through the layers of police timidity caused by misplaced sensitivity to multicultural issues.

Thorne, reluctantly, agrees to help, but then two youngsters – Amaya and boyfriend Kamal – are abducted. They were planning to run away together to escape the stifling expectations of their families, but the CCTV shows them being abused by a drunken Irish lout on a train, but then rescued by a smartly dressed Asian man. When Amaya’s body turns up in a shallow grave, apparently raped and strangled, Thorne abandons any reluctance he may have felt, and begins to put pressure on those he feels may be responsible.

Billingham dedicates the book to two real-life victims of religious murder, Banaz Mahmod and Rahmat Sulemani. He barely keeps his anger in check, but is too good a writer to allow the novel to be just a diatribe against disgusting and inhuman beliefs. Still, his controlled fury burns white hot on every page. Here, he discusses motives for the killings with his boss:

“It’s hard to accept these are motives.”
“Because they’re not, “ Thorne said. “Not to you or me or to anyone else with an ounce of sodding humanity. The people we’re dealing with have different … standards. A different code. If you can kill your own flesh and blood because something they’ve done means you don’t think you can hold your head up in a temple or in some poxy neighbourhood café….”

We watch with anguish as another possible victim becomes a target for the deadly pair who Tanner has correctly identified. A teenage girl keeps a diary and, having realised that her brother Jad has taken to reading it, writes this entry:

“What makes me angriest is that Jad doesn’t believe a lot of this stuff any more than I do. It’s perfect for him, because of what he’s got between his legs. He gets to do what he likes while I’m bringing dishonour into the house because I’m not ashamed to use what’s BETWEEN MY EARS!”

The plot twists are little short of masterly. Billingham encourages us to make a series of assumptions, but then delights in confounding us as he reveals that the reality is something different altogether. Love Like Blood is the sixteenth Tom Thorne novel and I am certain that the series, which started in 2001 with Sleepyhead, will come to be seen as a classic of its kind. I have read every one of them, but can say with complete conviction that Love Like Blood is the most powerful and impressive yet.

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