Death Message by Mark Billingham

Before I attended the Bloody Scotland Crime Writers’ Festival this year, I had to complete bloody scotlandDeath Message by Mark Billingham that I had bought even longer ago and had forgotten about. I enjoy Mark Billingham’s novels, so I made time to complete this book too.

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, Sleepyhead was published in 2001. It is revewed on this site at It was an instant bestseller in the UK. It has been sold widely throughout the world and was published in the USA in the summer of 2002. The series of crime novels featuring London-based detective Tom Thorne followed and an acclaimed television series based on the mark-billThorne novels was screened on Sky One in Autumn 2010, starring David Morrissey as Tom Thorne.

A new series, based on the novels In The Dark and Time Of Death  screened on BBC1 in 2016. Mark lives in London with his wife and two children. He is currently writing his next novel.

Death Message is the seventh in the series of novels about Tom Thorne. The “death message” is what cops call those harrowing moments when they must tell someone that a loved one has been killed. The novel starts when Thorne receives a picture sent to his phone by a number he does not recognise. The photos showed Thorne’s area of expertise. He knew a dead man when he saw one, but  also, Thorne does not know the victims, nor why the photos are being sent to him. Thorne is a Detective Investigator with savvy and a heart, very human, so th reader relates to him easily, sprouts goose bumps when he is in deep trouble, and once they begin a Thorne novel, they usually cannot put it down until the end. He seems like an old friend, one the reader knows well but still cannot predict exactly what he will say or do next.

death-message-bookHowever, although Death Message is a solid crime story in the series it never excels like some of the previous novels in this series have. The hunt is on as Thorne is being messaged videos of people being murdered/their murdered bodies as an ex-convict looks to wreak revenge on those who caused him to be sent down for a crime he did not commit. Things are quite interesting as the lines of communication between Thorne and the bad guy are kept under wraps as Thorne believes there to be some “dirty cops” in on the act and he wants to fly solo.Not a good idea.

Throne searches his past and recalls a man he had once sent to prison for life. Even behind bars, the most dangerous psychopath Thorne has ever faced is still a master at manipulating others to do his dirty work for him.  Thorne must act fast because the photos keep on coming, and the killer’s next target is someone the detective investigator knows very well.

I normally rate Mark Billingham as amongst my favourite authors, and I still do, but Death Message, although a good read,  is not one of his better novels.

Valerie Penny


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