The Demands (Tom Thorne #9) by Mark Billingham
Publisher: Little, Brown/June 2012
Tom Thorne Series
UK Title: Good As Dead
The Crime The customers in a London convenience store are taken captive. Among them is young mother, Detective Helen Weeks. She is told her life depends on the co-operation of one of her colleagues – detective Tom Thorne.
The Demand Akhtar is desperate to know what really happened to his beloved son, who died a year before in prison. He is convinced the death was not an accident and forces the one man who knows more about the case than any other, Thorne, to re-investigate.
The Twist What Thorne discovers will upend everything he thought he knew about the fate of those he’s put away…but will it be enough to fulfill the wishes of a grieving and potentially violent father?
Detective Helen Weeks walks into the convenience store she’s been coming to for ages, her mind on her 1 year old son, and the workday ahead, when she’s abruptly taken hostage, along with another customer, by the convenience store owner, Akhtar. This is a man she’s talked to every day for months, exchanging pleasantries, and Helen is baffled as to why he’d want to hold two people at gunpoint. He doesn’t want money. He doesn’t want fame. He wants to speak with Tom Thorne, and until he does, Helen and her fellow captive have no chance at freedom. See, a year earlier, Akhtar’s son was attacked by a group of boys with knifes. He turned the tables, and stabbed one of his attackers to death. Given a sentence above and beyond what anyone expected, he supposedly killed himself while in the infirmary 8 weeks earlier. Akhtar knows his son didn’t kill himself, and wants Tom Thorne to find out who did. Until then, Helen Weeks will be his hostage. At first Tom thinks it’s certainly a suicide, but as he digs deeper, he realizes it’s so much more, and time is of the essence.
It’s no secret Tom Thorne is one of my fave detectives, and he’s back in fine form in The Demands. It’s a powder keg waiting to burst inside that convenience store and Mark Billingham has a talent for garnering sympathy for people doing terrible things, as in the case of Javed Akhtar. His son is dead and determined to be a suicide, but he knows it’s not true. Obviously, holding two people hostage is not the way to go about things, but he feels he’s done everything right throughout his life, been an honest man, and that the justice system that he once believed in has failed him. He’s desperate, and his grief and terror over his own actions is constantly on display. Helen Weeks is fighting her own demons as well, still mourning the death of her son’s father, and fellow cop, Paul. All she can think about is getting home to her son, and will do anything to do so, even if it means keeping secrets that will come back to bite her. The body count is piling up as Tom sniffs around, but his willingness to color outside the lines serves him particularly well in this case. Sadly, he uncovers something far more tragic than a random attack and killing in self defense, and it involves some pretty powerful folks, but that never stopped Tom before, so why should this be different? The clock was ticking here, and it gave an immediacy to the events that really kept me turning the pages. I just had to know what happened next. Fine writing and explosive revelations rounded out another great entry into the Thorne series, and The Demands actually ends on a bit of a high note for our hero. I can’t wait until the next book!