DI Tom Thorne escorts a convicted serial killer to a remote Welsh island with predictably eventful results.
Twenty-five years after teenage car thief Simon Milner disappeared from Tides House, a facility for young offenders on Bardsey Island, his mother still doesn’t know what happened to him. Now she has a chance at the closure she craves. Stuart Nicklin, a notorious murderer who put in his time at Tides House along with Simon, says he killed the boy he befriended and that he knows where he buried him. Since the topography of Bardsey—a real-life island reputedly home to the graves of countless saints—is tricky, Nicklin can’t just tell the coppers the location of Simon’s last resting place; he has to lead them to it, and he insists on taking along both Thorne, who put him away, and a more recent friend, history teacher Jeffrey Batchelor, who’s been imprisoned along with Nicklin for killing the young man who jilted Batchelor’s teenage daughter, which led to her suicide. The staff of Long Lartin prison takes all possible precautions in transporting the two prisoners to Bardsey, but Thorne knows that something will go terribly wrong, and of course, he’s right. Like the manipulative Nicklin, Billingham (The Dying Hours, 2013, etc.) delights in toying with his audience, and most readers’ nerves will be shredded long before the sadistic import of Nicklin’s deep-laid plot finally becomes clear.
Thorne’s 12th is a tour de force of suspense that dares you to guess the secrets of a magician who’s made his intentions perfectly clear from the very beginning.