Now, before you all go ‘never read this series, not starting it. 16 previous books to catch up on is too many,’ let me point out that Cry Baby is actually the prequel to ‘Sleepyhead’, the first book in this series. So that is an excellent reason to pick it up and read it if you haven’t yet read Billingham. Of course, if you’re a dyed in the wool Billingham fan, like me, then you probably already have this on your reading radar.
EXCERPT: Cat moved quickly through the playground towards the exit on the far side, calling her son’s name, oblivious to the stares of other parents whose kids stopped what they were doing to watch. Maria hurried to catch her up and they both stopped dead when Josh appeared suddenly and came running from the trees towards them.
His yellow coat was streaked with mud and he burst into tears the instant he laid eyes on his mother.
‘Josh?’ Maria leaned down and took her son’s face in her hands. ‘You OK?’
‘Where’s Kieron?’ Cat asked, looking towards the trees. ‘Josh, where’s Kieron?’
The boy began wailing and buried his face in his mother’s stomach.
The unlit cigarette fell from Cat’s hand and she began to run.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: In the summer of 1996, two boys run from a playground into the adjoining woods, but only one comes out. DS Tom Thorne takes on a case that quickly spirals out of control when two people connected with the missing boy are murdered. As London prepares to host the European Soccer Championships, Thorne fights to keep on top of a baffling investigation while also dealing with the ugly fallout of his broken marriage.
MY THOUGHTS: Although the 17th book in the Tom Thorne series, Cry Baby is a prequel to Mark Billingham’s debut novel ‘Sleepyhead’, which was the first book I ever read by this author, and which put him firmly on my reading radar.
Tom Thorne is a credible and engaging character. He is flawed. Detests his boss, Boyle, and has conversations in his mind where he bests Boyle. He can be quite sarky. He is going through a marriage break up, and I love his thoughts on the ‘hippy-dippy, sandal-wearing’ university lecturer Jan left him for. He’s not good at friendships, and even seems uncomfortable with his own family. Yet he shows an unexpected humanity and compassion towards the victims. Our Tom is a complex character.
We meet, for the first time, Phil Hendricks, the new pathologist, tattooed, pierced and gay, though Tom hasn’t figured that out yet. Hendricks and Thorne have nothing in common – they don’t like the same music, or support the same football team – yet Cry Baby is the start of their decades long friendship.
In a new format for Billingham, Cry Baby is told from multiple points of view: Thorne, as usual; Cat, the mother of the missing boy; Maria, her friend and Josh’s mum; Kieron, the abducted boy, and his abductor.
There are plenty of subplots inside the main storyline – relationship issues, both personal and professional, for Tom and several other characters. There is some confusion about the parentage of the missing boy. And of course, a few red herrings.
I must admit that it took me a while to settle into this story. But once I got into the rhythm of Billingham’s writing again, I was away.
I don’t think that Cry Baby is the best of Billingham’s books, although it is certainly a valuable addition to the series. I wasn’t totally invested in the ending, but loved the journey.
FOR THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER: Cry Baby by Mark Billingham is set in London, mainly in the Highbury-Islington area. London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is a 21st-century city with history stretching back to Roman times. At its centre stand the imposing Houses of Parliament, the iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower and Westminster Abbey, site of British monarch coronations. Across the Thames River, the London Eye observation wheel provides panoramic views of the South Bank cultural complex, and the entire city.
Highbury is home to Premiership football at Arsenal FC’s Emirates Stadium, as well as a sports centre and tennis courts in leafy Highbury Fields park. Upscale restaurants cluster near Highbury Corner, with artisan food stores, cafes, and global eateries in the village-like area on Highbury Grove. Quiet, tree-lined residential streets feature Italianate villas and grand Georgian homes, many converted into flats.
THE AUTHOR: Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham. Having worked for some years as an actor and more recently as a TV writer and stand-up comedian his first crime novel was published in 2001. Mark lives in North London with his wife and two children.
He also writes as Will Peterson with Peter Cocks.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Cry Baby by Mark Billingham for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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