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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Book Review: The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

The Killing Habit is the fifteenth book in the hugely popular Tom Thorne series.

The previous Thorne, Love Like Blood was a truly exceptional crime thriller and it must have presented the author with quite a challenge to follow up, but thankfully Billingham was more than up to the task. Again the book uses highly topical issues as its starting point - this time dealing with animal cruelty. Specifically a series of cat killings - this case is based on the real life UK Cat Killings in which someone, still at large, is responsible for the brutal killings of hundreds of cats.

Thorne knows the serial killer archetype and is convinced that someone who kills cats, mutilates them and leaves their bodies on the doorstep for their owners to find them, will progress to killing people, indeed may have already done so. And so Thorne, once again teamed with DI Nicola Tanner begins to investigate. Thankfully the descriptions of the animal torture are mostly kept off scene, and it is not long before the plot moves on and becomes a cat and mouse game (excuse the pun) between Thorne, his team and the demented killer.

There is also a secondary though equally important plot in which Tanner is keeping a man in a safe house while she tries to track down a woman, known as The Duchess who has links to organised crime. As well as all that we also have details of the everyday lives of the main characters, and this soap opera aspect so necessary to long running series is something that Billingham does so well. Thorne is at odds with his partner Helen, feeling that her sister is coming between them and deliberately trying to ruin their relationship, Tanner still mourning the loss of her own partner is flat hunting and the rest of the regular cast put in their obligatory and entertaining appearance. I can never get enough of Hendricks, for example.

Billingham juggles everything with considerable skill and there is a real sense of urgency as the plot unfolds, which leads to a (I didn't see that coming) climax that will have major ramifications as the series progresses.

Later this week the Archive talks to the author in an exclusive interview.

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