Book #14 in the Tom Thorne series gives us a proper twisty police procedural that deals with a delicate issue.
DI Nicola Tanner is convinced her partner’s murder was a case of mistaken identity & she was the real target. Tanner has a theory about some recent honour killings in London. It’s a sensitive subject & she hasn’t exactly endeared herself to members of the religious communities involved.
When she’s put on compassionate leave, some of her colleagues are hoping a little time away will help ease tension between the victim’s families & police.
But Nicola has other plans. She figures her partner was killed because she was getting too close. All she needs is another cop willing to help, someone with a fluid regard for the rules who won’t mind colouring outside the lines if necessary. Someone like….oooh, I don’t know….Tom Thorne, maybe.
They met on a previous case (“Die of Shame”) & although Tom is initially reluctant, Nicola isn’t above playing the sympathy card to get him on board. Besides, there’s a good chance one of his old unsolved homicides is related.
“Nuff said about the main plot line. There are plenty of zigs & zags to keep you guessing, especially when you throw in several characters with questionable loyalties. But what really grips you is the subject matter. People of all religions find the concept of honour killings difficult to understand. Here, we are privy to the domestic situations of young men & women who are caught between parents’ traditional expectations & the freer lifestyle that a big city like London has to offer. The book also looks at the challenges faced by police when they attempt to investigate the crimes. Finding someone from the community willing to break the code of silence is difficult. If they press too hard, they may be accused of cultural insensitivity or racial prejudice. It’s a political hot potato that leaves both sides frustrated & many of the cases end up unsolved (see author’s comments at the end for a sobering dose of reality).
But this is not a sermon about who’s right & who’s wrong. Instead, Billingham personalizes the issue by giving us relatable characters of all stripes who are just trying to live their lives. There are some nice twists along the way & he reserves a couple of whoppers for the final pages. One in particular, I gotta say….man, I did NOT see that coming.
As usual, we get to enjoy Tom trading insults with ME Phil Hendricks over a few pints. I love Phil. If Lisbeth Salander & Quincy had a child (ok, a much younger Quincy) Phil might be the result. More time is given to Tom’s personal life & we get a closer look at his relationship with Helen as well as the challenges faced by 2 cops living under one roof.
It’s an intricately plotted & pacey story that keeps you turning the pages to see how it all shakes out. Picking up one of these books is like running into old friends & I look forward to #15.