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The Killing Habit: A Tom Thorne Novel


The Killing Habit: A Tom Thorne Novel

THE KILLING HABIT is a book that you should linger over, but you won’t. Author Mark Billingham has provided us with yet another temptation for a one-sit reading featuring go-to character Tom Thorne and his always interesting supporting cast. He brings back Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner to provide a straight-laced, even-keeled counterpoint to Thorne’s seat-of-the-pants investigation, a plot point that makes the novel an even more addictive read than usual for the series.

Tanner, who is still emotionally reeling from the murder of her partner that took place in LOVE LIKE BLOOD, is investigating a killing that appears to be related to the popularity in London of a highly addictive new designer drug. Meanwhile, Thorne is tasked with looking into a series of cat mutilations that are occurring with increasing frequency. It’s not the type of thing with which he usually gets involved, but he starts to wonder if the feline murders are an interlude --- or perhaps a cooling down --- between killings of the hominid bipedal type. He asks Tanner for assistance while promising to help her with her own case. This he does, though it is Tanner who carries the larger 50% of the stick.

"Mark Billingham has provided us with yet another temptation for a one-sit reading featuring go-to character Tom Thorne and his always interesting supporting cast."

There is quite an intriguing mystery involving Thorne’s case, and you’ll be left guessing who is doing what while probably being wrong, wrong, wrong. As for Tanner’s case, the duo manages to turn an addict into cooperating, and though it doesn’t go quite right, it isn’t as bad as it could be, at least until the end of the novel.

A good deal of the book is devoted to Thorne’s personal and professional relationships. In fact, some of the best lines are provided by medical examiner Phil Hendricks, who also happens to be Thorne’s good friend. It is Hendricks who plays a brief but key role in the proceedings during the late stages of the story while giving him an opportunity to infuse some dry gallows humor into the proceedings. I so love when justice, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, is done. Billingham also raises some questions about using a protected witness to obtain a conviction against someone higher up on the food chain, even as he demonstrates that the best-laid plans can go awry more often than not.

THE KILLING HABIT isn’t necessarily my favorite Thorne book, but it is certainly one of them, which says something about this long-running series that is well into its second decade. Thorne doesn’t experience any major changes in this installment, but one can almost hear if not see the fault lines of his life sliding once again, and there are just enough threads left dangling to provide the entertaining grist for another story down the road. If you’re not already on board Billingham’s (almost) annual visit to Thorne’s world, you should jump on now.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 29, 2018

The Killing Habit: A Tom Thorne Novel
by Mark Billingham

  • Publication Date: June 26, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802128246
  • ISBN-13: 9780802128249