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Mark Billingham

Author of Sleepyhead

59+ Works 10,193 Members 421 Reviews 35 Favorited

About the Author

Mark Billingham was born in Birmingham, England on July 2, 1961. He worked as an actor, a TV writer, and stand-up comedian before writing his first novel, Sleepyhead, which was published in 2001. His other works include the Tom Thorne series, In the Dark, and the Triskellion series, which he writes show more under the pseudonym Will Peterson. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: © Charlie Hopkinson 2007

Series

Works by Mark Billingham

Sleepyhead (2001) 1,288 copies
Scaredy Cat (2002) 919 copies
The Burning Girl (2004) 778 copies
Lazybones (2003) 761 copies
Lifeless (2005) 662 copies
Buried (2006) 621 copies
Death Message (2007) 565 copies
Bloodline (2009) 548 copies
In the Dark (2008) 480 copies
From the Dead (2010) 421 copies
Good as Dead (2012) 378 copies
Triskellion (2008) 299 copies
The Dying Hours (2013) 282 copies
Time of Death (2016) 261 copies
The Bones Beneath (2014) 248 copies
Rush of Blood (2012) 244 copies
Love Like Blood (2017) 202 copies
The Killing Habit (2018) 184 copies
Die of Shame (2016) 183 copies
Their Little Secret (2019) 174 copies
Cry Baby (2020) 136 copies
Rabbit Hole (2021) 128 copies
The Burning (2009) 108 copies
The Murder Book (2022) 81 copies
The Last Dance (2023) 72 copies
The Gathering (2010) — Author — 61 copies
Cut Off (2018) 13 copies
Sleepyhead / Scaredy Cat (2009) 12 copies
Great Lost Albums (2014) 11 copies
The Last Dance (2024) 5 copies
The Sounds of Crime (2010) 4 copies
Olume 5 Kala (2014) 2 copies
Stroke of Luck 2 copies
Stepping Up 2 copies
In Silence 1 copy
Scapegoat 1 copy
Eingewiesen (2023) 1 copy
The Walls 1 copy
Dead Run 1 copy
HIl Ipersuasore (2003) 1 copy
Knight School (1998) 1 copy
Watch Me Die 1 copy
Sans Merci (2006) 1 copy
2002 1 copy
Erfelijk belast (2009) 1 copy

Associated Works

The High Window (1942) — Introduction, some editions — 2,809 copies
Like a Charm: A Novel in Voices (2004) — Contributor — 316 copies
Inherit the Dead (2013) — Contributor — 290 copies
The Best British Mysteries 2005 (2005) — Contributor — 127 copies
OxCrimes (2014) — Contributor — 75 copies
The Best British Mysteries 2006 (2005) — Contributor — 63 copies
Damn Near Dead: An Anthology of Geezer Noir (2006) — Contributor — 63 copies
The Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries (2008) — Contributor — 61 copies
Murder on a Winter's Night (2021) — Contributor — 30 copies
The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 9 (2012) — Contributor — 29 copies
The Penguin Book of Crime Stories (2007) — Contributor — 17 copies
The Arvon Book of Crime and Thriller Writing (2012) — Contributor — 10 copies
Crime Writers: A Decade of Crime (2013) — Contributor — 7 copies
Crimespree Magazine #1 and 2 (2011) — Contributor — 4 copies
Crimespree Magazine #50 — Contributor — 1 copy

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Reviews

From the Dead by Mark Billingham is the 9th book in his police procedural series that features DI Tom Thorne. The book opens with a woman, Donna Langford, being released from prison after having spent 10 years there for the murder of her gangster husband. She is distraught because her eighteen year old daughter has disappeared and by a series of photographs sent to her of that show her dead husband alive and well.

Thorne is assigned to look into what happened both 10 years ago and to find out who died, burnt to death in a car in Langford’s place. Hunting for Alan Langford’s current location finds Thorne having to travel to Spain. This is a tough case as whenever he interviews a witness they turn up murdered shortly after. The bodies mount and at one point even Thorne comes under fire but instead of killing him, they kill the woman he was working with on the case.

While From the Dead isn’t a particularly puzzling mystery, the author does highlight police and prison corruption and gives us more insight into the character of Tom Thorne. I have enjoyed all the books in this entertaining and intelligent series and look forward to continuing on.
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DeltaQueen50 | 19 other reviews | Feb 14, 2024 |
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
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It was true that Miller wanted to be busy; but he hadn’t been counting on picking up such a big case on his first day back. That was the way things went, though. You were desperate for a day or two to catch your breath or even just looking to recharge your batteries after a major inquiry and someone decided to poison their husband or stab a passer-by because they didn’t like their trainers.

People were so bloody inconsiderate, sometimes.

WHAT'S THE LAST DANCE ABOUT?
Detective Sergeant Declan Miller cuts off his bereavement leave to return to work. It may be too soon following the murder of his wife (and we get plenty of reason to think that it may be), but the time off isn't doing him any good and accomplishing things, staying busy, and getting out of the house just might do him so good (and we get plenty of reason to think that it might).

Before he has a chance to reacclimate, he and his new partner are assigned a case—the son (and presumed heir) of a local crime boss has been killed—assassinated, really—in a local hotel. In the next room over, an IT consultant has, as well. It's unclear what the connection is between the two, or what either was doing in hotel rooms in their hometowns.

The other thing that Miller does to try to return to his pre-widowered life is to go back to the dance class that he and his wife attended. It's difficult being a single person there, but these were their friends, and it helps him to do so (as much as it hurts, too). We get a whole different set of supporting characters here, a different perspective on things. I really like the way that we get two different sides of Miller like this—yes, there's a good deal of overlap, but seeing him in such starkly different contexts really helps you understand the character.

DS SARA XIU

‘I’m your replacement,’ she said. “Well, I was.’

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Sorry about that.’

‘It looks like we’re going to be teaming up. ‘Even sorrier.’

She smiled. “That’s a joke, right?’

‘Not really.’

It almost seems like a disservice to her character to make Xiu a supporting character. She could star in her own series easily. She's got the tortured detective thing down—she drinks too much, parties too hard, etc., etc. But on the job? She's good, and she just might warm to her new partner at some point—at the very least they work together well.

This book might be all about Miller, his inner demons, and eccentric methods—but having him work with such a good partner isn't a choice many would make. In a book or three, I can see their partnership equaling Bosch and Kiz Rider's, and she could play a big role in Miller's unofficial investigation (see below).

ALEX MILLER
Miller's wife, Alex, was involved in a major investigation when she was murdered. The police haven't found her killer—and he's not particularly certain they're working too hard on it (it's a different homicide unit than his). No one from the investigation is updating him either—they want him to stay out of it, for obvious reasons.

And he technically does—but that doesn't mean he's not thinking about it a lot, and poking around the perimeter of the investigation—especially in areas that the others don't seem to be paying attention to.

Apart from that, we spend a good deal of the novel seeing Miller mourn her and talk to an imaginary version of her as both a way to work through his case and her not being around anymore. Those scenes are great on so many levels—the reader gets a real sense of who she was (at least as her husband saw her) and how they related to each other, and how the loss is hitting him. It also gives us a kind of insight into the way his mind works through problems that we don't often get from procedurals.

TONE

If anyone deserved a plaque on the wall of most local police stations, or a Lancashire Prison System loyalty card, it wag Gary David Pope. He’d been a well-known face — or more usually a photofit - on the criminal scene for as long as any serving officer could remember, and while he never really did anything that would merit serious jail time, and drink or drugs were almost always involved, there was rarely a crime committed anywhere within a twenty-mile radius that Gary didn’t have some connection to. It was like ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’, only with stolen cars and cocaine.

Gary Pope wasn’t the worst criminal Miller had ever encountered, not by a long chalk, but he was probably the most consistent.

He was a seriously committed wrong 'un.

It wouldn't take much to turn this into a very dark read featuring an unreliable and unpredictable detective. Thankfully, Billingham went the way he does—the darkness is still there, it's just mollified by Miller's sense of humor and perspective. He really reminded me of Peter Grainger's DC Smith—but without the almost cozy feel of Grainger's work. Blackpool is a harsher location than King's Lake, too.

Still, I think fans of one will appreciate the other. Miller's humor (and that of the narrator) is a bit sharper, and less subtle than Smith's—but only by degrees.

You're able to have a lot of fun given the humor in several situations that aren't fun at all. But he's not just funny and eccentric. Miller has a lot of heart, compassion, and empathy for crime victims and survivors. I'm not sure how much he had before his wife's murder—or how much he let himself show before then. But after it, he's able to connect with them in a way that few police officers seem to be—or at least are willing to be.

You combine those three elements? I'll be around for the long haul in any series.

SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT THE LAST DANCE?
Billingham knows his way around police procedurals—that's very clear. He also knows how to play with the conventions—and which ones to stay away from or treat straightforwardly. He does it all with skill and panache (not unlike his protagonist).

For example, in his time away, a detective that Miller...hmmm...doesn't respect, shall we say, has been promoted to DI, and seems intent on making his return as miserable as possible. What is it about almost every immediate supervisor in police procedurals being so intent on being horrible to their star investigators, rather than use their brains to improve their own careers? For every exception to this rule that I can think of, more than a dozen that follow it come to mind. Well, DI Stevens is a shining example of this, and I rather enjoyed Miller's reactions to him. That's the only tolerable part of the character.

There are so few quibbles I have with this book—and they're so outweighed by the good—that I'm not going to bother talking about them. I'm also not going to talk about all the things that Billingham does right with this—I haven't talked about the victim's wives, the various crime bosses, even Gary deserves more than that quotation above—and Miller's homeless informant deserves at least four paragraphs.

Fans of police procedurals or other detective novels are going to love this. I did, and I'm eager for the next. And if it's nearly this good (and how can it not be, given Billingham's experience), I expect to be in for the (I hope very) long haul with this series.
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½
 
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hcnewton | 5 other reviews | Feb 12, 2024 |
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley.

This begins with a hilarious scene set in a public toilet during which a briefcase is stolen from a contract killer by a minor thief. The contract killer is very keen to retrieve the briefcase so he can get paid for his latest job, and soon it falls into Declan's hands. As in the first instalment of this series, Declan discusses the case with his dead wife Alex, goes ballroom dancing, plays with his pet rats, and makes terrible jokes. Disappointingly, Declan's partner Sara seems to be beginning to get some of his jokes and even made one or two of her own.

This is a very funny book and, provided you buy into the reason for the retrieval of the briefcase (is proof of this sort ever really required?) then a great read. My only quibble was that the mystery of how Alex died (which again carries over from the first book) didn't seem very integrated into the main story. The end of the book makes me wonder if this series will continue...

Recommended.
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pgchuis | Jan 21, 2024 |
This second book in the Tom Thorne series is just as good as the first one. Don't get me wrong. This series is not for the faint of heart. It is as black as night, and the unexpected is always happening. Maybe after I read a few more books, I'll be able to clue in that something shocking is going to happen before it actually happens. This time DI Tom Thorne and his team are after a very prolific killer, and it appears that he does his killing in pairs. That is until they realize that the two people killed in each instance were each killed in a totally different way. Is this killer trying to play games with the police, or is there another reason? DI Tom Thorne comes to the conclusion that he will have to push the envelope far more than he ever has to discover who is committing these crimes. Mark Bellingham's special skill is that he is thinking outside the box all the time with his thrillers, and he does a great job of getting his story out through the eyes of his various characters, both good and bad. Different viewpoints, different motivations, different ways of thinking come up all the time during this book. It's enough to keep the reader guessing and trying (though not very successfully in my case) to figure out what is coming next. If you like your crime series to be hard-boiled and totally unpredictable, this is the series for you.… (more)
 
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Romonko | 22 other reviews | Jan 12, 2024 |

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Works
59
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Members
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Rating
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Reviews
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ISBNs
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Favorited
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