This writer is among those who considered Mark Billingham’s stand-alone novel In the Dark to be his magnum opus – until now, that is. That book, while still delivering the requisite tension of the police procedural novel, was energised by its social commitment regarding issues of race. And perhaps the reason that Billingham’s new one, Love Like Blood, is even better is that because (once again) the author has folded issues affecting society into the thriller narrative — but never at the expense of keeping the pages turning. A real-life tragedy inspired the novel: the subject here is the contentious issue of so-called ‘honour’ killings, in which young women from religious families are murdered for bringing perceived ‘disgrace’. The police now have honour-killing based murder units, but there is a tendency in the communities affected to close up on such issues, and they are often underreported. Here, Billingham has the tenacious DI Tom Thorne on the track of a duo of hitmen behind a series of murders. Two Bangladeshi students go missing from a North London College, and Thorne has to confront the possibility that their own parents were somehow involved in what has happened to them.
There is never a sense of the meretricious here, with the basic issues at the centre of the case treated responsibly; Thorne remains one of the most distinctive of British coppers in an over-crowded field – and as a writer, his creator just gets better and better.
Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham is published by Little, Brown