John Parker is a Graduate-qualified English/Spanish Teacher, owner and director of CHAT ENGLISH, an English Language Centre in Avilés on the north coast of Spain . A voracious reader, he has particularly loved horror fiction for many years.
Mark Billingham’s latest novel is a tale about guilt and shame. Add a dash of voyeurism and sprinkle in some paranoia mixed with some betrayal, deceit and violent death and you have the latest triumph from the best-selling author.
Die of Shame tells the story of a group of six people who meet every week in a therapy group to talk about their addictions. When one of the group is brutally murdered, Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner finds herself trying to unravel the reasons for the murder. Unfortunately, the group members and their therapist seem determined to uphold a strict code of confidentiality which completely hinders the investigation. Can Tanner find the truth behind this terrible crime?
There is no Tom Thorne in this novel though a familiar face to faithful readers, pathologist Phil Hendricks, does make an appearance. D.I. Tanner is an interesting new character, completely different from Thorne. At work, she seems rather cold and detached though thoroughly professional in her outlook. In her personal life, her 15-year relationship with her partner, Susan seems wonderfully solid but is in danger of falling apart if she does not act decisively to save it.
Billingham is quite the expert at painting believable characters in his novels. The group therapy members are a disparate bunch and, on the whole, not very likable so it is to the author’s credit that he keeps the reader engrossed in the plot. A particularly interesting character is therapist Tony de Silva who, while completely in control of his patients, is incapable of enjoying a harmonious family life with a wife who he thinks fails to appreciate him and a difficult teenage daughter who appears to despise him.
The book is divided into four parts within which we flit between the past and the present, learning more and more about the characters. We only learn the identity of the murder victim about a quarter of the way through this slow-building tale. As the pace increases and we begin to race to the climax of the novel, only the most adept of sleuths will guess the ending. It is a thoroughly satisfying ride with some great twists. I think that Billingham may well revisit the life of Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner.
The hardback edition includes a short story called “Pin” which is satisfyingly resolved in just under twenty pages and fits in nicely with the strap line on the cover, “You never know who’s watching”.