Want to know why DI Tom Thorne is such a depressive type? Just take a look at his caseload.
The centerpiece in Tom Thorne’s sixth outing (The Burning Girl, 2005, etc.) is the kidnapping of Luke Mullen, 16, whose parents didn’t even phone the CID until he’d been missing for three days. We just thought he was staying with a mate on Friday night, they tell the Kidnap Unit unconvincingly on Monday. Even though there’s been no ransom demand, Thorne can find no excuse for Luke’s father Tony, who put in years on the job before resigning as a Chief Superintendent in 2001, the year after Grant Freestone, a pedophile who’d threatened Tony before he was sentenced, got out of the nick. Now Thorne and his colleagues—especially DI Louise Porter of the Kidnap Unit, the latest recipient of Thorne’s half-hearted romantic overtures—are bearing down on Freestone, mainly because Freestone’s girlfriend has just died violently, right after she’d been informed of her boyfriend’s proclivities, and they have no other suspects. Meanwhile, a friend of Amin Latif, an engineering student who was sexually assaulted and kicked to death six months ago, says he can identify one of the killers, even though this suspect, schoolboy Adrian Farrell, shows no signs of discomfort. At length, Chief Inspector Callum Roper, who heads the Special Enquiries Team, will uncover a list of people who met to determine Freestone’s fate—a list that holds the key to the mystery. By that time, though, Billingham will have sprung his biggest surprise, a twist that gives the kidnapping a truly unsettling edge.
Too many coppers, too many conversations that go nowhere, too little chance to examine the lead villain and too long a wind-up (the author refuses to reveal the perp’s name even when all the relevant characters know it). But there’s no denying the energy behind Billingham’s probing, or the power of his dark imagination.