Billingham's 'Dying Hours' protagonist gets new role
By Oline H. Cogdill
Published: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
British author Mark Billingham's talent for sculpting intensely dark police procedurals complements his skill at pinpointing believable contemporary nightmares.
At the helm is Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, a good cop, an insightful investigator and often a loose cannon, going off on his own hunches. That he often is right still doesn't sit right with his supervisors. But Billingham uses Tom more as a mirror reflecting the changing times, the horrors that can seep into daily lives when least expected.
Billingham also is never afraid to shake up Tom's personal life and career as he does in his 11th novel in this series.
In “The Dying Hours,” Tom has crossed the line once too often, and he is put back in uniform — “the Queen's Cloth” — and demoted to Inspector.
The uniform is not a good fit. His depression over being “slapped down” erupts at work and at home where he lives with Detective Sgt. Helen Weeks and her 18-month-old son. Tom no longer has the power he did when he headed a homicide squad. His former colleagues show him little respect and his cases seem to be routine.
But Tom sees nothing usual about the apparent suicide of an elderly couple. He believes they were murdered, but no one will believe him even when he links the couple to other suicides of the elderly. His supervisors dismiss Tom's theories, saying that it is not uncommon for old people to end their lives, especially those who are ill and without families. But each of these people was healthy and had loved ones, even if some families lived far away. Tom gets reluctant help from former colleagues Detective Sgt. Dave Holland and Detective. Insp. Yvonne Kitson and pathologist Phil Hendricks, but even they don't believe him.
Tom's new position gives Billingham a heady advantage to find new avenues to explore in this character. “The Dying Hours” forces Tom to work even more as a solo agent, to rely on his own ideas and to re-evaluate his own role as a cop. Tom is accustomed to closing cases, to being “a glory hunter,” and begins to wonder if that is the only reason why he is a cop. He also looks at his role as a person. The murdered people were each mourned by their families. Will his relationship with Helen last? Will anyone care if he dies?
“The Dying Hours'” relentless pace doesn't slow down until the last word, proving why Billingham continues to be a best-seller in Great Britain.
Oline H. Cogdill is a staff writer for the Sun Sentinel (South Florida).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.