A serial killer stalks the streets of London. He approaches women, out alone at night, charms them and plies them with champagne laced with sedatives; when they’re out, he applies a technique to induce a stroke. Most women do not survive, but the ones that do are trapped in a nightmare: their brains are fully functional, but they cannot move. Inspector Tom Thorne is tasked with finding the killer. He has his own idea about who is behind the grisly attacks, but his superiors beg to differ. Who is right?
Without wanting to give too much away: cue surprised Pikachu face.
I’m on the fence about this one. I liked the writing, mostly – occasionally it all becomes a bit garbled and ponderous, but in general the writing style is solid. As is the whodunnit; the story managed to put me on the wrong foot quite a few times, and the conclusion is interesting to say the least. At the end of the day that’s what matters most to a thriller: a solid mystery at the heart of it. I also liked the story of Alison, the young woman trapped inside her own body.
What I liked less is Thorne himself. Granted, he’s got a bit more depth than many of his fellow rogue-detective-novel-crime-fighting-guys, but he’s also muy annoying and not in a way, I think, Billingham intended. Mostly he’s par for the course: middle aged, recently divorced, drinking problem (or at least a drinking habit that is about to become a problem) and a problem with authority, though in all fairness, he does like one of his bosses, just not enough to listen to the man. I understand why authors keep reverting to the lone wolf principle, but it’s annoying. Just once I’d like to see a well-adjusted detective with a normal home life who is actually capable of working with others.
Other than Thorne, the villain is par for the course and one mask and a van short of the full Scooby Doo. He’s prone to long-winded monologuing about the grandeur of his plans, most of which I skipped, hoping Thorne would do that rogue cop thing where they punch a guy in the face and get away with it. The women, well, they have breasts and vaginas and stuff (the one sex scene the book contains, though, is fun and surprisingly realistic). Sometimes they get to opine about things and nudge the plot along.
I haven’t decided whether I’ll give this series another try. There are quite a few books about Thorne, but I didn’t really like him all that much. I guess it’s as good a way to pass the time as any, but I’m still on the lookout for that one gem in the genre and I’m pretty sure he ain’t it.