British crime writer Mark Billingham has written 16 novels in the DI Tom Thorne series, most of them set in North London in the present day, and all of them in sequential order — until now. This, his 17th Thorne book, is a prequel and takes place in 1996. We are introduced to a young-ish Tom Thorne and to several other recurring characters from the series (including one, later to be his best friend, who he takes an instant dislike to).
It’s great fun to see a younger version of a character who has, perhaps, grown a bit jaded over the years. But more than that, this book is a gripping read, a mystery that the reader is invited to participate in (I think I figured it out relatively early because of one too-obvious clue). And as with all of Billingham’s books, one feels the real pain of death and other crimes. This is no Agatha Christie puzzle set in a country manor. Gripping stuff, and the author in top form.