The Hostage. Police officer Helen Weeks walks into her local newsagent’s on her way to work. Little does she know that this simple daily ritual will change her life forever. It’s the last place she expects to be met with violence, but as she waits innocently at the till, she comes face to face with a gunman. The Demand. The crazed hostage-taker is desperate to know what really happened to his beloved son, who died a year before in youth custody. By holding a police officer at gunpoint, he will force the one man who knows more about the case than any other to re-investigate his son’s death. That man is DI Tom Thorne. The Twist. While Helen fights to stay alive and the body-count rises, Thorne must race against time if he is to bring a killer to justice and save a young mother’s life.

Good as Dead by Mark Billingham

Good as Dead by Mark Billingham

Good as Dead by Mark Billingham – Tom Thorne’s 10th outing – is a rip roaring police crime thriller that places the reader smack bang in the middle of a non-stop thrilling ride as we follow Thorne’s attempts to placate a hostage-taker with nothing to lose. Reading the book in two days Billingham has this natural authorial ability to grab the reader by the scruff of the neck and once hooked he sits back and just lets his narrative do the talking, this is a very fluid and quick read. I was mesmerised from the very first page and with a couple of intelligent and well placed twists along the way it held my imagination throughout.

With the siege in place at the local Indian shop I did wonder how Billingham could keep the story ticking along without basing everything inside the shop, avoiding that feeling of claustrophobia, but within a few chapters my fears were allayed and the seamless transition between Thorne’s investigations on the outside and the on-going siege inside the shop were impressive and assured to say the least. But why should I be surprised? This is my second Mark Billingham book – having reviewed From the Dead in late 2010 – and his pedigree is incontrovertible, I really do need to start attacking his back catalogue!

Looking at the book from two different perspectives, firstly inside the shop,  I couldn’t help but imagine myself sitting on the floor, handcuffed to the radiator with the walls rapidly closing in, the feeling of helplessness and desperation in the air simply waiting to see if the hostage taker –Akhtar – would relinquish his hold and allow a peaceful conclusion. I could taste the rank and pungent air that seemingly increased with every turn of the page, the atmosphere inside the shop debilitating to say the least.

As Thorne investigates the suicide of a young offender it’s at this point we’re treated to a range of emotions and a detective hellbent on justice no matter the cost. As the investigation matures the pressure begins to take toll on our protagonist and he has little option – with time running out – but to step up and force the pace himself, skating outside the law on numerous occasions, sucking in fellow officers who readily support him despite the long term ramifications and effect on their careers. Thorne is the type of leader you would support to the hilt and suffer the consequences once the case reaches a satisfactory conclusion knowing full well he has your back, he’s certainly a man you’d want fighting in your corner that’s for sure.

Thorne’s dry and dark humour comes across on numerous occasions as does his love of music. Although only my second outing with Thorne I feel as if I’m beginning to get to know the man and not just the detective and how he function on the job and in his social life. A fallible character, as are many of his colleagues, Thorne isn’t prepared to take things lying down and to be fair as a reader you wouldn’t want it any other way.

A terrific story, well told and with a narrative both taut and intelligent Good as Dead is a fast paced police crime procedural that will keep the reader gripped throughout.

Publisher: Little, Brown (Mar 2012) — ISBN-10: 0751544973 — ISBN-13: 978-0751544978

Available to buy in the following formats: Hardback, Paperback & Kindle.

Other reviews available – Books and Writers, Guilty Conscience and Crime Fiction Lover.

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