Mark Billingham is a writer I’ve always enjoyed reading, but for some reason, his Tom Thorne series is one I’ve never been pedantic about reading in order. The Bones Beneath is a great example of this – it can be read as a standalone novel, although for Tom Thorne fans who read Mark’s books in order, I’m sure there are things I’ve missed.
The book itself was released in paperback a couple of years ago but I’ve only just got round to reading it. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have reviewed a two-year-old book but have decided to for a couple of reasons. The first is simple: I haven’t reviewed a Mark Billingham book on here before and I wanted to put that right. The second is because it’s a brilliant book – an absolute masterclass is how to build tension and pace without running amok with a bodycount.
Stuart Nicklin, a sadistic serial killer, and Tom Thorne’s nemesis, has said that he will lead the police to the body of a boy he murdered twenty-five years earlier. The issues facing everyone is that the body is supposedly located on a tiny, and almost inaccessible, Welsh island – an island where Nicklin stayed as a young child – and Nicklin’s main demand: Tom Thorne is to be the police officer who accompanies him.
Of course, nothing is straightforward. Nicklin has a plan, a plan we get hints of throughout without every knowing it, and Thorne is soon plunged into a waking nightmare.
The beauty of The Bones Beneath is that for 90% of the book, nothing outrageous is really happening – the action is limited to the last few pages – but Mark has written a genuine page turner nevertheless. The journey to the island, the steps taken to commandeer a police station, and the search for the dead boy’s remains when they get there all add to an atmospheric, extremely tense story.
Add Nicklin’s mind games and you have a police procedural, a psychological thriller and a mystery all rolled into one.
And the ending … Well, the ending was completely unexpected.
Great book, great writer, great location.