Bloodline – Mark Billingham
I unquestionably regard Mark Billingham as one of my favourite authors. For some bizarre reason however, I do not read his books very often. I read “Death Message” in 2010 and before that “Buried” in 2007. Both books I rated with high scores but for some unknown reason I once again waited a long time before I read another book. Alas, I chastised myself and plunged once more into the world of DI Thorne.
When a dead body is found in a North London flat, it seems like a straightforward domestic murder until a bloodstained sliver of X-ray is found clutched in the dead woman's fist - and it quickly becomes clear that this case is anything but ordinary. DI Thorne discovers that the victim's mother had herself been murdered fifteen years before by infamous serial killer Raymond Garvey. The hunt to catch Garvey was one of the biggest in the history of the Met, and ended with seven women dead. When more bodies and more fragments of X-ray are discovered, Thorne has a macabre jigsaw to piece together until the horrifying picture finally emerges. A killer is targeting the children of Raymond Garvey's victims. Thorne must move quickly to protect those still on the murderer's list, but nothing and nobody are what they seem. Not when Thorne is dealing with one of the most twisted killers he has ever hunted...
Bloodline features one of the most harrowing prologues in recent memory. Its significance does not become apparent until later in the novel but regardless it is a testament to Mark’s skills as a writer that he can create something so eerie using brand new characters within a few short pages.
After that, reading the book was like slipping into an old pair of slippers and sitting by the fire. Thorne is as excellent as ever. Struggling to deal with his personal life, he remains as stoic and quintessentially male. As usual he throws himself into the case he is working on rather than find a way to communicate with his partner.
The great thing about Mark Billingham’s books is that if you were to remove all the plot elements, all of the drama and even the antagonists, I would be quite happy to follow Thorne’s life as he sits behind his desk or down the pub conversing with his colleagues. Billingham executes dialogue perfectly. It is honest, realistic and funny. At the same time it is never mundane. The banter between Thorne as his colleagues is always interesting and at the same time progresses the story either via the plot or characters.
As I alluded to earlier, in “Bloodline” Billingham focuses on Thorne’s inadequacies as a partner to Louise. After an upsetting incident in their lives, it is Hendrix that is left to console both of them as neither can find a way to express their feelings. This leaves Thorne both grateful and resentful that he is unable to talk to his girlfriend and introduces a new dynamic in the way the characters interact with each other.
The plot itself is a good one. Raymond Garvey was one of the most notorious serial killers the Met put away. Now as the children of his victims are being murdered Thorne strives to protect them. This is an interesting twist on your average serial killer story. Thorne knows who the next victims are and vows to protect them, even if they are not altogether keen on being protected.
The motivations of the serial killer are clear. The killer is clearly deranged but their reasoning is perhaps a little understandable in a warped way. Billingham manages to keep things interesting by mixing the correct amount of drama and intrigue with suitable dollops of gore.
The conclusion is satisfactory . A little predictable perhaps but it is disguised enough not to matter. Billingham continues to impress with his series and now I need to catch up!!
My rating: 8.8