The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham

I like the English novelist Mark Philip David Billingham and I enjoy his books so when my daughter gave me The Burning Girl for Christmas, I was delighted. He was born and brought up in Birmingham, England and worked for some years as an actor, TV writer and stand-up comedian before his first crime novel, Sleepyhead, was published in 2001. His series of “Tom Thorne” crime novels are best-sellers in this particular genre.Mark now lives in North London with his wife and two children.burn book

The Burning Girl was Mark Billingham’s fourth novel led by his protagonist, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. It tells a tale of turf warfare between gangs in London. Billy Ryan is the organised crime boss who is moving into someone else’s patch but that someone is not best pleased. In The Burning Girl Thorne agrees to help out ex-DCI Carol Chamberlain rake through the ashes of an old case that has come back to haunt her.  It is the case of schoolgirl Jessica Clarke was turned into a human torch twenty years ago. Jessica was the victim of mistaken identity.  The intended target was the daughter of a gangland boss, a woman who would grow up to marry a man named Billy Ryan.

 Now, Gordon Rooker, the man Chamberlain put away for the crime, is up for possible release, and it seems there’s a copycat at large. Or perhaps it is someone trying to right some wrongs. So, Thorne and Chamberlain face a contract killer who carves and X into his victim’s back. The X is carved in  blood. When DI Tom Thorne finds a man’s corpse he believes this is the latest victim of a singularly vicious contract killer. It involves more killings, protection rackets, human cargoes, and a murderous family without and then an X is carved on his front door.

mark bFor Thorne, what starts as a tenuous link becomes two pieces of the same puzzle. Past and present fuse together to form a new, and very nasty riddle. This is a  morbid and messy mystery with plenty of clues and Tom Thorne knows that the smouldering embers of a long dead case are about to erupt into flames.

Billingham also makes Thorne more real by dealing with his father’s alzheimers. The reader experiences Thorne’s qualms as he realises the circle of life when the child’s role is no longer that of son but that now his father is the one who needs looking after. Thorne is reticent in his dealings with this problem. Billingham shares Thorne’s frustrations experienced by a lot of people going through this with their own families and having to deal with the pressures of work as well.

Mark Billingham’s books never disappoint. Several others are reviewed on this site, including: Sleepyhead,, The Dying Hours…ark-billingham/ and In The Dark, I really enjoyed The Burning Girl and highly recommend it.

Valerie Penny



  1. Lisa Smernoff

    Looks fun I will have to start with his first novel and get to this one.


    • Valerie Penny

      It is well worth the time to do that. As he is also a stand up comedian, he is a really good speaker too. Remind me to tell you his story about Eric Douglas, if I have not already done so. It is priceless!


  2. Reblogged this on normanjkennedy.


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