DS Helen Weeks stops at the local newsagents on her way to work, something she’s done countless times before, but during her visit the shop keeper, Javed Akhtar, seemingly flips out and pulls a gun out on her and another customer in the shop for no apparent reason. He takes them both hostage, handcuffing them to a radiator in the storeroom at the back of the shop and makes his demands.
He asks for DI Tom Thorne – hero of the previous 9 books in this series – and insists that he investigates the sudden death of his son Amin whilst in prison a couple of months previously. Akhtar insists there was something wrong and that his son just wouldn’t have committed suicide as the records have it.
Akhtar wants Thorne to investigate and to bring the real culprit to justice before he will let his hostages go free.
The siege lasts a number of days and we are taken on a journey of investigation by Thorne as he first of all visits the prison and then Amin’s friends to find out the truth about the circumstances of his death.
Where is it set?
It is largely set in London but we are also taken to Buckinghamshire about 40 miles away to the youth offender’s institution.
Who are the main characters?
Of course the main detective is DI Tom Thorne (or else why would it be billed as a “Thorne” novel?) but I would say that the main character is Javed Akhtar because without him there wouldn’t be a hostage situation and we wouldn’t have any reopening of the investigation into his son’s death. A lot of the action is centred on the development of his character as he moves from outrage to grieving father throughout the siege. We also have the usual bit-part characters that we have got to know through the series – Phil Hendricks, Thorne’s friend and pathologist; Dave Holland, his DS; Yvonne Kitson, another CID officer on the team – and we see again the character of DS Helen Weeks. I see from other reviewers that she is the protagonist in a standalone novel by Mark Billingham, and I know (because I read it out of order) that she appears in the next Thorne novel too.
My overall impression?
I loved this! It literally was a siren in the room when I wasn’t reading it. I could hear it singing to me to “read me, reeeeeaaad me….!!” and I loved the way the plot unfolded and revealed itself in stages.
What seemed to be a simple case of suicide in custody soon became much more and each step in the story was logical and didn’t come out of the blue. I like that because the whole thing reminded me of the good old-fashioned, well told stories that seemed to have dropped out of fashion recently. Most crime thrillers now rely heavily on forensic or scientific processes to solve crimes, or are more about the personal life of the detective than that of the victim, and in an attempt to become more realistic we are quite often left with books that lack the gift of great storytelling.
Not so with this book. We do see a little of the personal life of Thorne, but the bulk of the story is just that: the STORY.
Will I read the next in the series?
Well as I already confessed I have already read the next one. I loved that one too, and I will definitely keep with Mark Billingham for as long as he turns out well told stories like this one.
Would I recommend it to my friends?
Yes I would. As it doesn’t rely on too much technical or scientific stuff to get the culprit there isn’t much blood and guts and gore so it’s suitable for even the most sensitive reader. Yes this is a crime thriller, but it’s more about an investigation into human relationships and human behaviour which makes it more than just a detective novel. You can read this one as a standalone too which helps if you’re like me and only like to read book series’ from book one. This one is all about the Akhtar family and anything from the past is either explained or isn’t relevant to the plot here. Enjoy!