LIFELESS by Mark Billingham

A review by Sandra Ruttan

Lifeless picks up where The Burning Girl left off. In The Burning Girl, the humour paves the way for the heartache. Billingham utilizes his skills as a stand-up comic to heighten the emotional impact of the story.

Lifeless begins with a desolate Tom Thorne. Thorne’s career is circling the drain and he’s perhaps not thinking rashly when he volunteers for an undercover assignment to find the person who is beating homeless people to death. One of the most compelling aspects of the book is that the author is moving into fresh territory. Billingham has found other types of crime to address, not afraid to step off the well-trodden serial killer trail and explore new terrain. By making Thorne take on the roll of a lost, homeless person without anyone left to care about him in the world, his setting and roll parallel the desperation he feels inside after the loss of his father.

It’s imperative to read The Burning Girl first to fully understand Thorne’s emotional state at the beginning of Lifeless. I found myself holding my breath at times at the beginning, wanting to see Thorne work through his issues but afraid he was going to do something rash to compound his problems. Has Thorne managed to get his career back on track, is he ready to commit himself to a relationship? The best thing about a good series is a compelling character that you want to spend time with. Lifeless does what every great series book does: It leaves the reader wanting to spend more time with the protagonist. My only complaint is that it will be about ten months before I find out what the future holds for Tom Thorne.

For more information about Mark Billingham and the Tom Thorne series visit


Mark Billingham has written five books in the Tom Thorne series with the third novel Lazybones recently named as the winner of the first Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year award. His second novel Scaredy Cat was nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger and won the 2003 Sherlock Award.

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