I discovered Mark Billingham’s books featuring Tom Thorne after Sky One adapted the first two for television. The finished product bore almost no resemblance to the source material though. It’s been three years now and there doesn’t seem to be any plans for there to be any further adaptations, so it would seem the TV adaptations were not a roaring success. The Burning Girl is the fourth in the series of books which now numbers eleven, and sees the first stumble from Billingham. I have been reading them in order and very much enjoyed the first three, but this one didn’t grab me at all.
Rival London gangster families are the focus of this novel. The girl of the title had the misfortune of being best friends with the daughter in one of the families and is burned alive in a case of mistaken identity. The arsonist confessed and fourteen years later, he is still behind bars. Carol Chamberlain put him away and is spending her retirement working with cold cases when someone contacts her to tell her that she put the wrong man away. That it was HIM who burned the girl.
This runs alongside and eventually spills over into Thorne’s investigation into who is offing members of the gangster families and carving an X into their backs when he’s done so. And it’s here that the lack of interest really bites (or fails to?). None of the family members are particularly deeply or realistically drawn, so much so that they all sort of blend into one and you don’t really care which one of them ends up with a bullet in their brain. Thorne pays such scant attention to rules and regulations that it’s impossible to believe he would have remained in the job for any length of time. While the final act revelations are pleasingly twisted, the way the information is uncovered is so ridiculous and unbelievable, that one really does cancel out the other.
So it’s really not great, but at the same time, the first three are so much better and this isn’t flat out dreadful, so I’ll keep reading the Thorne series. This one I’ll chalk up to a blip.