photo of Mark Billingham

Or maybe I should really say that it is a very Tom Thorne Christmas. Tom Thorne is the middle-aged UK Detective Inspector that Billingham brings to life in his books and I have been spending some major quality time with him this month.

Thorne is a hard man to pin down, even Billingham has described writing him as “peeling back the layers of an onion” with each book. One of the coolest things about him is that he is different for every reader. Billingham purposely doesn’t describe him physically, so that we all can have our own version in our heads. Of course now that they have made a TV show on Sky, it sort of dims the neat trick for those that live in the UK.

There are 10 books in the series and having read a few out of sequence, (Bloodline, Death Message, & Buried) I decided that, this month, was going to be the one where I go back to the beginning and read the ones that I have missed, in order. Some might say that being mired in death, crime, and Alzheimer’s that the Thorne series brings isn’t very cheery at Christmas.  To those that say that … you have never met my family. Well, we haven’t had any murders, but some say that the Doc giving my Great Uncle George his chemical peel killed him.  (hmm, two references to “peel” in one post.)

There are learning the many benefits of reading a series, one right after another. Everything stays crystal clear in your mind and yet, my picture of Thorne still remains fuzzy, in a good way. One book may have him being tortured in his dreams by the victims of his current case, in the next, he can’t even manage sympathy. One has him so painfully inept at dealing with women that you want to put him out of his misery and the next he will be juggling more women than any man knows what to deal with. That is what, in my mind, makes Billingham an awesome writer, his books don’t become formulaic like so many others that I won’t mention. He hasn’t pinned down his character, so we can’t either. The reader never knows where the line in the sand is for Thorne or how far he will go to solve the case. About the only thing that you can depend on is that the outcome will leave an impression on you almost as strong as it does on Thorne.

Okay, enough with the blathering. I am hip deep in UK crime and slightly in love with both Billingham and Thorne.

Have you ever gone gung-ho on a series?

Merry Christmas to ya’ll.