Tom Thorne's career is on the skids. Having seriously crossed the line on his last case and depressed over the recent suspicious death of his father, the once ambitious police detective has been reduced to pushing papers . . . and is being encouraged to take a prolonged leave of duty.
But someone is stalking the city's most destitute citizens. Three homeless men have recently been kicked to death, each brutalized corpse discovered with a banknote pinned to its chest. With nothing to lose, Thorne volunteers to try to find the killer—taking to the streets he knows so well from his days as beat policeman and as a homicide detective, but this time joining the squalid ranks of life's rejects. In this harsh and harrowing netherworld, with its own rules and moral codes, a shocking link between the brutal crimes and a fifteen-year-old atrocity could end up costing Thorne what little life he has left.
When a serial killer targets London street people in British author Billingham's gritty fifth police procedural to feature detective Tom Thorne (after 2005's Burning Girl), Thorne, a psychological wreck following his father's death, convinces his bosses to let him go undercover. The detective manages to integrate himself into the community of the down-and-outers, even as a leak threatens to expose his ploy and place him in harm's way. An unusual tattoo on one of the victims leads the police to a squad of soldiers who may have been involved in atrocities during the first Gulf War-and to a possible motive for the killings. While most readers will be several jumps ahead of the police in identifying the murderer, the author's convincing depiction of the streets and his well-developed characters more than compensate.