cover image The Murder Book

The Murder Book

Mark Billingham. Atlantic Monthly, $26 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5968-7

British author Billingham’s masterly 18th novel featuring Det. Insp. Tom Thorne (after 2020’s Cry Baby) finds Thorne content in his relationship with Melita Perera, who works with the police as a forensic psychiatrist, following a period of social isolation. Meanwhile, Thorne’s nemesis, Stuart Nicklin, who once tortured and nearly killed Thorne’s best friend, pathologist Phil Hendricks, escapes from prison and undergoes cosmetic surgery that makes him all but unrecognizable. When three grotesque murders, which imitate the proverbial “see no evil” theme, occur in London, Thorne and partner Det. Insp. Nicola Tanner investigate. They tie all three to sociopath Rebecca Driver, an acolyte of Nicklin’s, who meets her victims on a dating website, and arrest her. While Driver is in a holding cell after conviction and waiting to be sentenced, she finally decides to expose Nicklin’s evil manipulations. In the brilliant denouement, Thorne confronts Nicklin in Melita’s home, and the fallout from their violent encounter is sure to reverberate through the lives of Tanner, Hendricks, and himself in future installments. The intricate plot matches superior characterizations. Thorne fans will eagerly await his next outing. Agent: David Forrer, InkWell Management. (July)