The classic first novel from Mark Billingham introduces DI Tom Thorne in a unforgettable and terrifying case that changed crime fiction forever.
'A terrifically stylish debut novel' Independent on Sunday
Alison Willetts has survived a stroke, deliberately induced by a skilful manipulation of pressure points on the head and neck. She can see, hear and feel but she is completely unable to move or communicate. In leaving Alison Willetts alive, the police believe the killer's made his first mistake.
Then DI Tom Thorne discovers the horrifying truth: it isn't Alison who is the mistake, it's the three women already dead.
Thorne must find a killer whose agenda is disturbingly unique, and Alison, the one person who holds the key to the killer's identity, is unable to say anything . . .
Read what everyone's saying about the heart-racing Tom Thorne series:
'Literary superstar' Mail on Sunday
'Ground-breaking' Sunday Times
'Mark Billingham gets better and better' Michael Connelly
'A cracking read . . . I couldn't put it down!' Shari Lapena
'A damn fine storyteller' Karin Slaughter
'Twisted and twisty' Linwood Barclay
'One of the most consistently entertaining, insightful crime writers working today' Gillian Flynn
'The next superstar detective is already with us. Don't miss him' Lee Child
In a variation on the serial killer theme, newcomer Billingham's villain doesn't want to actually kill his victims (those who do die he considers "mistakes") so much as induce massive strokes that will leave them cerebrally conscious while otherwise in a completely comatose state known as "locked-in syndrome." Combining elements of both police and medical procedural thriller, the novel follows frayed, middle-aged London detective inspector Tom Thorne as he chases down a series of red herrings, gradually becoming more and more obsessed with the killer's "masterpiece," 24-year-old Alison Willetts, and the seductive doctor, Anne Coburn, who cares for her. This romantic subplot becomes entwined with the main plot as Anne's colleague and paramour, Dr. Jeremy Bishop (whose amusement with Thorne's growing infatuation with Anne reveals a particular sort of passive-aggressive sadism), fuels Thorne's rising suspicion of him with verbal jousts. Billingham, a TV writer and stand-up comic, manifests a competent enough hand with plotting and dialogue, particularly at romantic moments ("Now, this carpet has unhappy memories and I'm still not hundred percent sure I've got the smell of vomit out of it..." "You smooth-talking bastard"). Overall, he displays a solid grasp of the form, though not at the gut-wrenching level of such peers as Mo Hayder. Billingham excels in characterization, however, and it's likely that readers will develop empathy for his conflicted protagonist and the compassionate physician who takes justice into her own hands.