This great novel should put Billingham in the same league as Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, John Harvey and Denise Mina.

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THE DEMANDS

The clock is ticking for London detective Tom Thorne.

A news agent, Akhtar, is holding detective Helen Weeks of the Child Protection Unit hostage in his shop, demanding justice. A year ago, Akhtar's teenage son Amin died in a juvenile detention center in what was wrongly ruled a suicide. Unless Thorne finds who killed the boy, the grieving father will do something terrible. In what could be his commercial breakthrough novel in the States, British author Billingham serves up suspense on multiple fronts. In the shop, Weeks and a frightened male banker are handcuffed to a radiator and subjected to the normally pleasant news agent's dangerous mood swings. Immediately outside, a battery of armed, high-tech cops are chomping at the bit to do their thing, impatient with a female hostage negotiator's slow, by-the-books methods. And Thorne, re-investigating a case involving a clash between bullying white kids and Pakistani youths that resulted in Amin killing a white kid with the kid's kitchen knife, immerses himself in the corrupt culture in and around the Barndale Young Offenders Institution. Secrets are revealed, notably that Amin was gay and frequented clubs where he took money for sex from men with reputations to protect. The book is an ingeniously constructed effort that unfolds with pinpoint timing, building to exciting finishes on all fronts. Thorne draws on his own rough beginnings to empathize with the young victims and his own busted relationship with a fellow cop following her miscarriage to empathize with Weeks, mother of a baby son. Billingham does an especially good job in his descriptions of Weeks' steadfast efforts to remain calm at gunpoint and in the face of Akhtar's polar inconsistencies. Thorne's sidekicks are winning. 

This great novel should put Billingham in the same league as Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, John Harvey and Denise Mina. 

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-12663-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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