Take six former addicts, masters or mistresses of deceit, a trait crafted to get their latest fix of whatever it is that drives them. When one of the group is murdered after a meeting, those who remain are the chief suspects. Would you want to have to investigate this crime?
Mark Billingham is a brilliant writer and I have really enjoyed those books I’ve read of the Tom Thorne series but Die of Shame is a stand-alone novel, is it as good? I’d say so! This was a gripping read with much of the action taking place in the therapist’s North London conservatory during his Monday Night Group, an addiction therapy meeting.
The scene is set with each member of the group sitting in their favourite spot with Tony De Silva pushing them forward into whatever form of sobriety they are seeking, or should be seeking. One of the mantras is keeping the discussion in the here and now so it is odd that the narrative is split into the ‘now’ and ‘then’ with the story flip-flopping backwards and forwards slowly building up a full picture of those almost claustrophobic sessions where personalities battled not helped by such diverse lives as a doctor and a young-male prostitute, a wealthy woman whose husband left her for a younger model and an obese supermarket worker. And what of Tony De Silva, there seems to be a secret hiding in the smart house, but what is it?
Meanwhile we meet tenacious detective Nicola Turner who is leading the investigation into the group member’s death. She doesn’t instantly decide that it must have been one of the others who is the murderer, she quite naturally investigates the background and when that falls on stony ground she is up against the code of silence that protects the entire group. The question is will anyone crack? Will someone disclose the facing up to the shame exercises that Tony has instigated believing that it is shame that leads to addiction in the first place – what on earth has happened to these group members that could possibly ever lead to one of them murdering another – was the shame perhaps just too much?
There are many, many layers to this book with none of the characters one-dimensional in the slightest. This is a diverse bunch especially when the investigating officers are bought into the mix and I was delighted to catch up with a few familiar characters from the Tom Thorne books. However it is perhaps naturally those being counselled that we learn the most about either through their own word and actions or those who share the sessions with them. I could have sworn they were people I knew in real life as I was soon caught up in their world.
It took a little while to get into the swing of the time switches although the excellent signposting assisted enormously, this is one of those books where you do need to hold many different pieces of information in your head to put the pieces together. I was enormously proud to have spotted the murderer fairly early on (although I’d be lying if I said that I was completely convinced) but as for the motive, I had to wait to the brilliant reveal for that!
Just one word for Mr Billingham – rarely has a book ended quite so perfectly!! I felt enormous satisfaction that everything was just as it should be with the pieces of the puzzle put together and the picture revealed.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Grove Atlantic who allowed me to read a copy of this book in return for this unbiased review. Die of Shame was published in eBook and hardback on 5 May 2016.
The Tom Thorne Books so far…
Sleepyhead – His first three victims ended up dead. His fourth was not so fortunate . . .
Scaredycat – Now… killing is a team sport…
Lazybones – The past has caught up with them. And so has he…
The Burning Girl – Some fires never go out . . .
Lifeless – Some lives are cheaper than others . . .
Buried – The past is a shallow grave . . .
Death Message – That’s what coppers call it when they have to tell someone that a loved one has been killed.
Bloodline – It seems like a straightforward domestic murder….
From the Dead – the man she paid to have murdered – seems very much alive and well…
Good as Dead – The hostage, the demand, the twist.
The Dying Hours – a cluster of elderly suicides – is it coincidental?
Time of Death – the abduction of two schoolgirls, an arrest but what happens to the accused’s family? This is currently being adapted for television by the BBC
In the Dark – A deadly crash… A dangerous quest… a shocking twist
Rush of Blood – Perfect strangers, perfect holiday, perfect murder