DI Tom Thorne, back in uniform after his last round of insubordination, goes even further off the rez in his attempts to prove that a series of suicides was something else.
John and Margaret Cooper didn’t leave a note when they topped themselves; the bottle of insulin they used didn’t carry a prescription label; and Margaret had removed her dentures, as if she were merely going to sleep. But those telltale signs don’t persuade DI Paul Binns or DCI Neil Hackett that the Coopers might have been murdered. Since nobody will listen to him, Thorne signs off on the official findings and then goes off on his own—first during his free time, then on manufactured sick days—to find more compelling evidence that they’re wrong. For better or worse, evidence of a sort keeps coming in. The earlier suicides of Brian Gibbs and Fiona Daniels look equally suspicious, and more victims soon follow, each of them clearly (at least to Thorne’s mind) coaxed or forced into killing themselves. The breakthrough comes when Thorne, sneaking behind the back of DS Helen Weeks, the lover he’s been more or less living with ever since he saved her life (The Demands, 2012), links all the elderly victims to a 30-year-old case. But even when he’s satisfied himself of the killer’s motive and identity, Thorne still can’t find any evidence that changes Hackett’s mind, and the harder he tries, the more he risks getting booted off the force for good.
Too many views of the killer at work and not enough actual mystery. But no one currently working the British scene tops Billingham for mordant intensity, whether Thorne is surveying the latest scene of an apparent suicide or just trying to explain why he called in sick.