Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Bones Beneath.
The twelfth installment in the Detective Tom Thorne series, The Bones Beneath, is perhaps the most challenging novel yet. Thorne finds himself facing off against a former nemesis named Stuart Nicklin who seems to have the upper hand at every turn.
Mark Billingham's Thorne series is not your typical crime saga. Thorne is a somewhat twisted character who does not play by the rules of standard police detection. This may stem from the real-life attack and robbery Billingham faced in 1997 when he was beaten and bound by a thug in a Manchester hotel room.
This event, and the lack of response from the Manchester police force, has shaped his depiction of Thorne and his squad throughout this series.
If you have not caught it, the cable series Thorne featuring David Morrissey (the actor made infamous for portraying the Governor on AMC's The Walking Dead) is a good introduction to this character and the novels. This time out, Thorne is called out by a demented killer he put behind bars years earlier. Stuart Nicklin has announced that he is finally ready to reveal the whereabouts of the remains of his earliest victims but will only do this for the man who caught him—Tom Thorne.
As Thorne and a small group of fellow law enforcement colleagues take Nicklin from prison, the reader quickly gets the feeling that things are not what they appear to be. There is no doubt that Nicklin is in control every step of the way (quite reminiscent of the Kevin Spacey character in the film Seven). They are all forced to accompany Nicklin to a small island off the Welsh coast where the remains allegedly are buried.
Thorne and company do find remains...and a whole lot more. The result will leave several people hurt or dead, and Tom Thorne finds himself forced to make decisions that he may live to regret. The Bones Beneath will frustrate some readers who, like myself, will get a bit antsy waiting for the other shoe to drop. Let it be said that the Thorne series never falls into predictable themes, and the endings are not always happy.
Of particular note, the Special Edition of this novel features an afterword that depicts a playlist of the music Tom Thorne listens to. This is primarily country music, and artists like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are listed. Of course, one of Billingham's personal favorites, Elvis Costello, also gets mentioned for good measure. A nice wrap-up to a gritty novel and another chance for the reader to try to get to know Tom Thorne a little bit better.