From the Dead – Mark Billingham
I really enjoyed “Bloodline” at the start of the year, so much so that it made me question why I had fallen behind on Mark Billingham’s DI Thorne series. It is rare for me to return to an author before 6 months have elapsed, but I found the lure of Thorne too much.
When Donna Langford receives a very recent photo of her ex-husband in the post, she gets the shock of her life. Because she's just spent ten years in prison for organising his murder. When her daughter goes missing, Donna believes there can only be one man responsible and hires Anna Carpenter, a determined young private investigator, to find him. DI Tom Thorne worked on the Alan Langford case, so when Carpenter brings the photo to him, he refuses to believe that the man whose body was found in a burned-out car ten years before can still be alive. But when a prison inmate that he and Anna interview is viciously murdered, Thorne starts to understand that Langford is not only alive, but ready to get rid of anyone who could threaten his comfortable new life in Spain...
Whilst most books in this genre rely on the actual crime to spark interest in the novel, Mark Billingham has enough confidence in his characters too simply carry on their lives from where they left off in the preceding entry.
“From the Dead” does contain an interesting prologue but we join Thorne as he experiences another ordinary day at work. The ongoing difficulties with his girlfriend Louise are still evident as are the ever present nuances of his co-workers.
Thorne begins this novel a little lost. He is disillusioned with how his life is progressing and so when the interesting and a youthful Private Investigator called Anna Carpenter comes along, he latches on to her enthusiasm and feels obligated to protect her.
The dynamic between the two characters is excellent and allows Thorne to ignore his real problems in his relationship by burying himself in his “work.” The engrossing thing about this novel is that Mark Billingham once again demonstrates how fallible his protagonist is. Thorne repeatedly makes mistakes: from his reluctance to acknowledge the case initially, to his treatment of suspects involved. He regularly forms incorrect first impressions and trusts the wrong people.
The plot itself is nothing original but as I have mentioned in other reviews of this series when the characters are this good and interact with each other so naturally the plot can take a back seat for all I care.
Having said that, apart from the final third I found the plot very interesting. That is not to say the final third is dull, it just meanders slightly and the story loses its focus a tad. The antagonist is mostly anonymous which is good as anymore page time could have resulted in him becoming too cartoonish. Mark Billingham shows us enough of him to get the message across that he is arrogant and not nice and that is all that is needed.
Other new characters are good. Donna Langford is well portrayed as the long suffering wife, as is the aforementioned Anna Carpenter.
The ending is good whilst not being outstanding. All plot threads are tied up, whilst ongoing aspects on Thorne’s life are left tantalisingly unanswered.
Overall, “From the Dead,” is a good, solid addition to the series.
My rating: 8.6