cover image Lifeless


Mark Billingham. William Morrow & Company, $24.95 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-06-084166-9

When a serial killer targets London street people in British author Billingham's gritty fifth police procedural to feature detective Tom Thorne (after 2005's Burning Girl), Thorne, a psychological wreck following his father's death, convinces his bosses to let him go undercover. The detective manages to integrate himself into the community of the down-and-outers, even as a leak threatens to expose his ploy and place him in harm's way. An unusual tattoo on one of the victims leads the police to a squad of soldiers who may have been involved in atrocities during the first Gulf War-and to a possible motive for the killings. While most readers will be several jumps ahead of the police in identifying the murderer, the author's convincing depiction of the streets and his well-developed characters more than compensate.