Cry Baby by Mark Billingham

It’s 1996. Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne is a haunted man. Haunted by the moment he ignored his instinct about a suspect, by the horrific crime that followed and by the memories that come day and night, in sunshine and shadow.

So when seven-year-old Kieron Coyne goes missing while playing in the woods with his best friend, Thorne vows he will not make the same mistake again. Cannot.

The solitary witness. The strange neighbour. The friendly teacher. All are in Thorne’s sights. 

This case will be the making of him . . . or the breaking.

You know you’re in good hands when you read a book written by Mark Billingham, and this is no exception. Despite being the seventeenth book in the Tom Thorne series, and a prequel to Sleepyhead, the first in the series first published in 2001, Cry Baby still manages to surprise and entertain us, proving that Billingham is one of the best in the business. The book is set during Euro 96 and I promise you Three Lions will be going through your head by the end. This is a younger, less confident Thorne whose marriage has just fallen apart and who is still raw following a harrowing case involving children. The case that features in this book involves seven-year-old Kieron Coyne who has gone missing whilst playing with his friend Josh in a park. Curiously, his friend’s mother was watching the boys and they only left her sight for a minute. Thorne begins to investigate both families as he suspects someone close to Kieron has taken him. Then, people close to the case begin to die.

Interestingly, the effects of the disappearance on both boys is detailed, Josh in his uncertainty of what happened and Kieron in hiding with his kidnapper. The fractured relationship between both boys’ mothers is also examined as Kieron’s mother Cat doesn’t know if she will ever forgive or trust Josh’s mother again.

Fans of the Tom Thorne series won’t be disappointed. John Connolly also published a prequel to his long-running Charlie Parker series in 2020 showing that there’s a healthy fascination with returning to the past to learn more about our favourite characters. And, as always, Billingham perfectly blends suspense and comedy. Cry Baby features Thorne’s first meeting with pathologist Phil Hendricks and we get a hint of the relationship and friendship that is to come in the later books. Hopefully 2021 will bring more Tom Thorne and the return of The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers.

Little, Brown, 23 July 2020

About the author

Billingham has twice won the Theakston’s Old Peculier Award for Crime Novel of the Year, and has also won a Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British writer. Each of the novels featuring Detective Inspector Tom Thorne has been a Sunday Times bestseller. Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat were made into a hit TV series on Sky 1 starring David Morrissey as Thorne, and a series based on the novels In the Dark and Time of Death was broadcast on BBC1. Mark lives in north London with his wife and two children.

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