Death Message (Tom Thorne #7) by Mark Billingham

Death Message (Tom Thorne #7) by Mark Billingham
HarperCollins/Sept. 2010
Tom Thorne series

It’s carried by police officers to your door—the last words anyone ever wants to hear: The Death Message.

Detective Investigator Tom Thorne is receiving messages of his own: photographs of murder victims sent to his cell phone. Thorne doesn’t know who’s sending the grisly pictures, who the victims are, or why he has been chosen—but he knows a dead man when he sees one. Ensnared in an investigation that threatens to confound his judgment and destroy his career, he must track down a fiendishly elusive killer before time runs out. Because the slayings are somehow connected to the most terrifying psychopath he has ever encountered—and the blood trail is about to cross into Thorne’s personal life.

Death Message is the 7th novel in the Tom Thorne series and joins Tom as he’s thrust into a series of revenge killings with mob ties. The problem is, Tom is receiving pictures of the victims on his phone and at first has no idea why this killer feels the need to get so personal. As he and his colleagues get deeper into the case, and the body count rises, Tom begins to realize that someone else might be involved, someone he put away a while back. This psychopath may be pulling the killer’s strings, and be the puppet master in something farther reaching then Tom and his team could have imagined.

Tom Thorne is one of my favorite British detectives, and I always enjoy these books. Death Message was no exception, and the fascinating look at the British gang underworld had me turning the pages. It does take a while to build, but once I was invested, the ride was totally worth it. Aside from the myriad ins and outs of this frustrating case, Tom is also juggling his relationship with fellow cop, Louise Porter, and his friendship with pathologist, Phil Hendricks. Things with Louise might be getting a bit stale, and it doesn’t help that she seems to be confiding in Hendricks more than Tom. I adore Tom, but as usual, he ends up doing things according to his instincts sometimes, instead of procedure. More often than not, this yields results, but usually ends up in some sort of disciplinary action, or unintended consequences. Tom is a complex character but tends to keep things very internalized, much to the consternation of his friends and lovers. He always gets the job done, though, and cannot let evil go unpunished. Quite a few of Mark Billingham’s villians have been absolutely deplorable, but you’ll find yourself sympathizing with this one, and his motives for revenge are heartbreaking. Twists and turns abound, and this one wraps up rather surprisingly! If you like your procedurals full of rich characterizations and fascinating cases, this series is for you, and be sure to keep an eye out for my review of Bloodline, the next book featuring Tom Thorne!

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