It’s not a total mystery why I rate Mark Billingham as the best crime writer in Britain today. He’s created a wonderful lead character, Tom Thorne, with a great supporting cast who you actually grow to care about. His stories, set mostly in north London, are close to home, vivid, real. But it hit me as I read his newest book, what I really love about his work. A book like this one falls into the category of police procedurals, focussing on the nitty gritty of police work but also featuring the home lives of the protagonists. The police procedural is a genre invented by my favourite crime writer of all time, the late Ed McBain. I heard some years ago Ian Rankin described as Scotland’s Ed McBain; surely, Mark Billingham deserves the English title. He is indeed the English Ed McBain.
P.S. Some years ago,when I once had the chance for a chat with McBain himself, I mentioned that Rankin had been called the Scottish Ed McBain. He smiled, and putting on a strong Scottish brogue said, “I thought I was the Scottish Ed McBain.”