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DEATH MESSAGE by Mark Billingham

DEATH MESSAGE

By Mark Billingham

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-143275-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Forget You’ve Got Voicemail. DI Tom Thorne’s cell phone is delivering a more macabre message: You’ve Got Corpses.

Whoever beat to death dodgy used-car salesman Raymond Tucker is civic-minded in at least one respect. Instead of waiting for someone to report Tucker missing, he uses his phone to send Thorne a photo of the week-old corpse. Ricky Hodson’s face also turns up on Thorne’s phone shortly after he’s suffocated in his hospital bed. Since Tucker and Hodson were both longtime members of the Black Dog gang, Thorne’s suspicions soon focus on Marcus Brooks, who faced a horrific revenge after murdering the founding president of the Black Dogs some ten years ago and is now evidently engaged in reprisals of his own. But the case grows steadily more complicated. The next victim isn’t another Black Dog but a police officer. Brooks, who’s addressing himself more openly and directly to Thorne, insists that he arrived at one murder scene to find his intended victim already dead. And a tenuous bond begins to grow between Brooks and Thorne as they race to close the case, each in his own way. Though the climactic identification of the master criminals who are pulling the strings will pack a bigger wallop for Thorne than for most readers, the motives for their perfidy are satisfyingly chilling.

Thorne’s eighth (Buried, 2007, etc.) boldly pushes the British procedural toward the kind of cops-and-criminals psychodrama Americans are most likely to associate with James Lee Burke—a heady brew indeed.