Time of Death: A Tom Thorne Novel

Atlantic Monthly. Jun. 2015. 448p. ISBN 9780802123633. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802191373. F
In this 13th of the series (after The Bones Beneath), London detective Tom Thorne and Helen, his cop girlfriend, are on vacation. When the body of a teenage girl turns up in the northern village of Polesford and another girl goes missing, a local man is quickly arrested. Helen decides she and Tom should go to help the wife of the accused, who turns out to have been her school classmate, even though Helen hasn't been home in 25 years and there are major hints of terrible secrets in her own youth. Neither Tom nor Helen has any official standing, but he soon finds troubling reasons to believe the police have the wrong man. With the help of his flagrantly gay pathologist friend, Tom finds insect evidence that contradicts the established time of death, a point vital in this case in which a twisted pedophile has cleverly thought of nearly everything in framing someone else.
VERDICT Billingham is skilled at ratcheting up the tension through plot twists, developing memorable characters including Thorne, and having them grow in successive tales. This one is marred, however, by a melodramatic ending that strains credibility. Still, Billingham's many fans won't want to miss it, and Thorne certainly is likely to return.
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