Set in 1996, Billingham’s superb 17th novel featuring Det. Sgt. Tom Thorne, a prequel to the series debut, 2001’s Sleepyhead, focuses on the search for seven-year-old Kieron Coyne, who’s kidnapped while playing in North London’s Highgate Wood with his best friend, Josh Ashton. Though their mothers, Cat Coyne and Maria Ashton, are supervising nearby, a distraction makes Maria look away when Kieron is snatched. Josh is too distraught to give details of the kidnapper. Thorne and a team from the Metropolitan Police comb the area and interview possible witnesses. That Maria is divorced from Josh’s father, and Cat’s boyfriend, Kieron’s father, is in prison for violent assault create complications. Suspects include Dean Meade, who claims to be Kieron’s biological father, and the boy’s teacher, Simon Jenner. Despite being embroiled in a nasty divorce, and contending with his antagonistic boss, Det. Insp. Gordon Boyle, Thorne tenaciously perseveres. Billingham adds tantalizing red herrings throughout. The book’s masterly ending features a heart-stopping chase to apprehend Kieron’s surprising kidnapper. Established fans and newcomers alike will be thrilled. Agent: David Forrer, Inkwell Management. (Aug.)
Praise for Mark Billingham and the Tom Thorne novels:
“A fantastic thriller, combining a gripping plot and lead characters of remarkable depth…Readers who grab this one but aren’t familiar with its predecessors will be seeking them out. A series to savor.” Booklist (starred review), on Their Little Secret
“The twisted plot unfolds gradually, with a maximum of suspense. Billingham never strains credulity in this thoughtful page-turner.” Publishers Weekly (starred review), on Their Little Secret
“Morse, Rebus, and now Thorne. The next superstar detective is already with usdon’t miss him.” Lee Child
“Billingham is a world-class writer and Tom Thorne is a wonderful creation. Rush to read these books.” Karin Slaughter
“With each of his books, Mark Billingham gets better and better. These are stories and characters you don’t want to leave.” Michael Connelly
“Mark Billingham has brought a rare and welcome blend of humanity, dimension, and excitement to the genre.” George Pelecanos
DI Tom Thorne’s 17th case, an agonizingly focused kidnapping, is a prequel to his first 16.
It's 1996. John Major maintains erratic control as prime minister, Britain prepares to host the national football (i.e., soccer) championships, and Maria Ashton takes her eyes off her 7-year-old son, Josh, and his best friend, Kieron Coyne, during the few minutes Catrin Coyne has left them to use the facilities in a London park. When she goes looking for the two boys, Kieron has vanished. His disappearance sets in motion the wheels of justice, or at least aspirational justice, in the form of DS Tom Thorne; his dislikable boss, DI Gordon Boyle; and the members of the Major Incident Pool. There’s no way Kieron could have been kidnapped by his father, Billy Coyne, who’s serving a sentence in Whitehill Prison for assault and attempted murder. In the absence of such an obvious target, the unsupported account of a single witness, housing project manager Felix Barratt, leads Thorne to suspect, and Boyle to more than suspect, Cat’s peculiar neighbor Grantleigh Figgis. By the time the alibi Figgis claims has been confirmed, he’s already been murdered, and so has Dean Meade, the smarmy store manager who turns out to be Kieron’s biological father. So who is the man who’s holding Kieron prisoner, and how much tighter can Billingham turn the screws before his climactic twist?
Not as original or unsparing as Their Little Secret (2019) but expertly grueling in its more conventional way.