Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up and from which she long ago escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.
When it’s splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband’s innocence.
As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.
Tom Thorne returns in a chilling mystery that will keep readers guessing until the final page. Time of Death is Mark Billingham’s most timely, atmospheric thriller to date.
This book, the latest in the DI Tom Thorne series, sees D.I.Thorne and his and his partner, DS Helen Weeks, weekending in the Cotswolds on Valentine’s weekend as Helen drags Thorne into the country for some much needed r&r.
But while they are there, Helen sees a report on TV of a crime that has taken place in her home town, Polesford, a place she detests. Despite this, she knows she needs to go back, because Steve Bates,the man accused of kidnapping two 15 year old girls, is the husband of an old classmate and friend of Helen’s, Linda Jackson.
Of course, Thorne goes with her – mostly because he’s not a great lover of rural life, but also because he is intrigued.
In his usual gruff fashion, Thorne sets about finding out about the crime, getting up the noses of the local force as he does so, especially the sharp suited D.I Tim Cornish, an officer convinced that the obvious answer is the right one.
Helen, meanwhile, is helping Linda to deal with the massive impact of Steve being accused of these crimes.
Then one of the girls, Jessica Toms, is found dead and Steve is charged with her murder. Does Linda really know the man she lives with? Not as much as she thought she did, it transpires.
But as Thorne investigates more, he is increasingly of the view that there’s something not right with the case. He calls in his friend, pathologist Phil Hendricks, to help him solve the puzzle that is the timeline of the girl’s death. Thorne hopes that if he can work out what happened, he will stand a chance of finding the other girl, Poppy,still alive.
What is less clear is quite why Helen is driven to help Linda, but as the book develops, her motives become much clearer, and when she finally reveals to Thorne quite why she hates Polesford as much as she does, her revelations help clarify the motivation behind these kidnappings.
As the residents of Poleford turn against Linda and her family, helped by the intense media focus, the secrets and lies of Poleford are slowly
As a police procedural, this is a fairly perfunctory case, with a startlingly quick denouement, but the characterisation is strong – especially the quirky pathologist and the descriptive atmospherics of the locale and the hostility and gossip laden environment is sharply observed.