Click here to read reviewer Ray Palen's take on From the Dead.
Billingham just gets better and better, his latest thriller awash with clever criminals and supporting characters that examine the complexities of bringing solid cases to trial. Having delivered a strong case against Adam Chambers, accused of the murder of the missing Andrea Keane, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and his fellow detectives in Hendon, south of London, are shocked when the jury finds their evidence too circumstantial for a conviction. Reeling from the defeat, Thorne refuses to let go even when assigned a new case—one supposedly finished ten years ago.
It all begins with Donna Langford’s hiring of Private Investigator Anna Carpenter. Near the end of her time for soliciting the murder of her husband, Alan, Donna begins receiving photographs of a man who looks eerily similar to Alan, alive and well in a luxurious coastal setting. Carpenter has left a bank job in pursuit of a more exciting career, though her sleazy boss has offered little but “homey trap” cases, causing Anna to question the wisdom of her choice. So when she is approached by Donna Langford, Anna is thrilled to represent her new client on the side. Unable to make any progress, Carpenter approaches Thorne, the original detective in the investigation. Thorne’s bosses, concerned about bad publicity after the Chambers case, jump on the opportunity to prove Alan Langford is still alive. If so, whose was the body found in the flaming wreckage of Langford’s car?
Building his story as much on the varied characters involved as on the actual crimes, Billingham finds a perfect balance of murder and emotional complexity, from the newly-released wife—anxious to find her husband and recover the daughter she is sure he has kidnapped—to her partner, both women having done time and now trying to make a new life for themselves, one that hopefully will include Donna’s sixteen-year-old daughter. But it is Anna Carpenter who truly throws a wrench into Thorne’s carefully controlled environment, her eagerness and enthusiasm for the job both refreshing and dangerous; she is too naïve to sense the danger in such an investigation. Examining his reactions to Anna’s intrusions, Thorne is forced to look at his relationships with others both at work and at home, where his relationship with Louise Porter has been suffering for lack of communication.
Haunted by the missing girls, both Andrea Keane and Donna’s daughter, both
cases merge in Thorne’s mind, both men too clever to be caught by police or
brought to justice. Unwilling to let Alan Langford get away with faking his own
death, Thorne goes back to the beginning, starting with the man who facilitated
the murder for Donna Langford. Carpenter happily accompanying him to prison interviews. One thing leads to another, and a sudden spate of murders—while making it harder to link Langford to the crimes—convinces Thorne that it is critical to bring him back to England.
From England to the coast of Spain, with the help of the Serious and Organized Crime Unit, Thorne pursues a wily criminal, driven by a passion to put an end to Langford’s odyssey and bring him to justice. But fate, as ever, intervenes, turning logic on its head and rendering a judgment on offenders and innocents alike. Never one to hold back, Billingham inserts a surprise twist, a balm for some of the more heinous realities of murderers and their prey.