Book Review: From the Dead by Mark Billingham

From the Dead
Mark Billingham
Little, Brown, August 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4087-0075-4
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK and Canada, not available in the US at this time]

D.I Tom Thorne is one among the outstanding protagonists in the crime genre who doggedly solve murders and other mysteries while questioning their own talents, motivations and personalities, often to their own detriment.  He, like many of the others, criticizes himself, albeit unnecessarily, because he, and they, do achieve success.

We see Thorne agonizing over the court’s findings when it frees an accused murderer he and everyone else is convinced is guilty. Key to the innocent verdict is the fact that there is no body.  But there is no time to worry about the case before another arises to occupy Thorne: a 10-year-old case that just won’t disappear.

Donna Langford has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for having hired a hit man to murder her husband.  Then she begins to receive photos of a man she says is that same husband.  When she learns that her daughter has vanished, she can only conclude her husband is responsible, and she employs a private detective, Anna Carpenter, to investigate.  Anna approaches Thorne and together they begin to work the case, setting off all kinds of repercussions which may be engineered by a man who is supposed to be dead but is perhaps intent on preserving a reconstructed life.

Once again, the author has written a deep police procedural with significant insights into the characters.  While the investigation is hampered by the craftiness of the “dead” husband and roadblocks he throws in Thorne’s way, he plods on doggedly, just in character.  Written with smoothness and urbanity, the plot moves forward in unexpected ways.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Theodore Feit

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