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==Synopsis of the book:==
A drug gang target a lone woman driving late at night in Stoke Newington. She is driving her BMW and she flashes the stolen Cavalier as it has no lights on. This sparks an immediate response and the woman is shot at twice and loses control of her vehicle. She runs of the road at a bus stop where she knocks over and kills an off duty Policeman. She escapes with minor injuries as does the other man waiting at the bus stop but the gang in the car very quickly disappear seeing the results of their actions.
The dead man Paul Hopewood partner Helen Weeks also in the Police force is now facing a future with no father for her soon to be born son. However Helen is a strong and determined lady decides she wants to know more about the circumstances around Paul's death. The main reason for this was because their relationship had become more distant as her pregnancy developed she wanted to find out exactly what he had been up to, with fears that he either had another woman or he was keeping bad company. All Helen knows is she wants the truth, but will the truth be more bad news or has she misjudged her dead lover?
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was a good piece of fiction. It was action packed and full of excitement with a story that was unpredictable so that you never knew what would happen next. With always more questions as the plot developed than answers and where things where never quite the way they first appeared.
This is not my first experience of the author Mark Billingham and I have enjoyed the majority of his crime thrillers featuring DI Tom Thorne. I think the main reason I enjoy those books is the excellent character he has created in Thorne. So his first novel not featuring this charismatic man was obviously going to be a fresh challenge for me as indeed I'm sure it was for him. It was written in 2008 and my paperback copy was 433 pages long.
I purchased this book from Amazon as I had recently received a token. The book was on special offer at just four pounds and for me it wasn't a difficult decision to buy it. I liked the idea of a new lead character no matter how much I like DI Thorne I thought it would be interesting to see how it compared to the stories I love. The first thing I liked about the book was its simple but effective title. I thought with this there where so many options and I could just sense the mystery within it.
The summary on the back cover of the novel was excellent. It was three short paragraphs long but I really liked the fact it was different. Each paragraph had three words that introduced different aspects of the story which where briefly expanded upon in the next few lines. I thought this approach was good and really grabbed my attention, while making me want to read the story.
The story began with the lead up and the moment before the crash. It was a good beginning with the author not giving much away about the gang members and the lady driver. I immediately thought she was the target and thought she was lucky to get away with the injuries she had. It was such a senseless act that caused an innocent bystander to be killed. And because he was a Policeman there was always going to me a very thorough investigation to find those responsible for this.
Following this the story flitted from character to character. It started with Helen the grieving or not so grieving widow. Who was struggling to come to terms with her feeling of anger and mistrust for her dead partner. I was always interested in her feelings and I thought the author was excellent at sharing her thoughts and feelings about what had happened to her partner. I understood and admired that she had to find the truth if she could so that she could move on with her life. The only problem I had was she was like wonder women and I wondered given that she was giving birth in a matter of days how she managed to be so industrious.
The story also followed a key member of the gang Theo. This I found interesting as I know so little about gang culture and the risks members are exposed to. Although I did find it hard to relate to despite Theo being a pretty decent young man. The story also followed a couple of other characters but certainly initially I struggled to understand exactly their roles and only later did it become apparent if they where really good or bad.
For the first 100 pages I really struggled with the story. It seemed slow and I started getting confused about who was who as there was too much switching from scene to scene so I had little chance to get to know much about anyone except Helen Weeks. I found this frustrating but it did mean the story was full of mystery as you where only told what you needed to know, making you the reader as questions which only later would be addressed.
I think part of my problem was understanding gang culture. It is something that is alien to me and the way the members of the gang lived I found it hard to relate to. Although I was impressed by the author's knowledge of it and the roles and responsibilities of the various members. I just found I wanted more emphasise on Helen and her troubled path to find out what her dead partner was really up to.
However I did find the story improved the longer it went on. That was because the author brought in some really unexpected developments. That really added spice and intrigue to the story. In many ways the author turned a lot of things on their head with some excellent writing. It was like you never knew who you could trust and believe in, as Billingham had a way of casting doubt on all those involved in the story.
I think that was the best feature of the story the real sense of suspense within it. There was always something happening and I had no idea what the solutions would be to any of it. With a story that had so much depth you could read it twice and still not appreciate everything you where being told. I found this depth very rewarding as Billingham set each scene superbly got get a real feel what it was like in the mean streets of Lewisham.
The pace of the story increased as it all developed. With a very fast paced and exciting conclusion that was an honest finish to what had developed into a riveting story, it was just a shame it was so slow and confusing to start with. It certainly was not the conclusion I expected and I found it made sense, but annoyingly I did not get the answers to all the questions I had. There was a real sense of understanding street life and the colourful characters that walk it be they good or bad.
The stories lead character was Helen and I found it very difficult not to feel sorry for me given the situation of losing her partner just before she was due to have a baby. I liked the way she dealt with things and her initial anger at her partner death. With her feelings that he was distant from her because he was up to no good and the way she needed to know what. She was easy to like because she was honest and her emotions where always shared with the reader. These where easy to relate to and I found I admired everything she did.
When I compare this book to the DI Thorne series for me it isn't quite as good. Although I do think in Helen Weeks he has a character that could develop a series of stories around. I thought this story was longer than it should have been as I felt little really happened in the first quarter of it. When it did it was interesting and full of unusual and unexpected twists that impressed me as they where not things I had thought about and considered and those I had did not happen!!
Overall I thought this was a clever well written thriller. What I really liked was the suspense the whole way through the story and the wonderful twists within it. I do not think this one was as good as the very popular DI Thorne stories, but it showed the author can create excellent stories involving totally new characters within different settings. I would still recommend this story despite its slow start simply because it gets so much better later on.
Thanks for reading my review.
This story is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS April 2012.
In The Dark - By Mark Billingham
I've been a fan of Mark Billingham since his debut novel 'Sleepyhead', which follows the antics of the surly, sarcastic Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. The series went from strength to strength and has won several awards.
So when Billingham announced he was going to write a standalone novel, which would have nothing to do with Tom Thorne, I was intrigued and eager to see if he could carry it off. Well, if I'm honest, I knew he could but whether he would or not was another matter.
Some of you may have noticed that I share the author's surname. We are not related and the fact that with have the same name had nothing to do with me wanting to read his books; it was just a happy coincidence.
London is alive with gangs and old school career criminals. Drugs and dodgy deals are the order of the day and the city bulges with uneasiness.
Helen Weeks is on a mission to find the truth but as she is about to give birth at any minute, she places herself and her child in immediate danger.
Theo is a young lad who has a young child of his own and is under pressure from his girlfriend to get out of the gang-life and find a 'proper' job.
An old school gangster is building a new pub and slowly easing his way into retirement. He finds himself linked to the story and may yet have a few 'jobs' to carry out before quitting.
An innocent has been killed in an unfortunate accident but all is not as it seems. Secrets are uncovered, loyalty is stretched to the limit and friendships become strained. The truth may be more than those that seek it can handle and the story takes the reader along a rollercoaster ride with more twists than a twisty thing.
One thing is for sure, the truth will out and when it does it may not be the answer everyone was expecting.
Billingham gives us a gritty London so prevalently dominated by the growing crimes committed by gangs, consisting of a youth gone gangster crazy and an experienced underworld that most people do not know exists, right under their noses.
Having read eight of the nine Thorne novels I am used to Billingham's vision and awareness when it comes to locations around London. I usually find that most novels read like an A to Z when talking about London but Billingham manages to make you feel like you're there and doesn't overdo the description.
The novels principal character, Helen Weeks is very believable and in my opinion she carries the storyline well. It is a testament to Billingham's skill with characters that he can get inside the head of a pregnant woman so well and I doubt that many female authors could have done a better job.
The story is quite fast paced and I like the way it swings from Helen to Theo, the young gang member and onto Frank Linnel, the career criminal. It's a nice tidy threesome and each has their own role to play in the story.
Helen's mission to find the truth left me feeling like I wanted to help her, if only to take the weight off her poor ankles. She gets herself into some dodgy situations and being pregnant magnifies these greatly. A very enjoyable character, with a toughness that only an expectant mother will know about.
Frank is an old school gangster who is slowing down things and trying to enjoy life's simpler offerings until the incident changes things. You'll either love him or hate him.
I really enjoyed reading about Theo, who is a lot more complex than being a young black youth in a gang. Theo wants to get out but is forced into this life by circumstance and necessity. His friend 'Easy' is probably one of the nastiest characters you're likely to read about in that you want to punch him in the face every time he appears. Another house point for Billingham on that score.
The storyline itself is steeped in twists and turns and you find yourself pondering on what the outcome will be. All good books should make you feel like this when you put them down and if they don't then they probably aren't worth reading. As I mentioned earlier, I like the way the story switches between the principal characters. You never feel bored or bogged down with one character. Some chapters are dedicated to one character, whereas other chapters will switch between the three quite frequently as the pace quickens.
The gang-related side of the storyline is written with an edge and grittiness that leaves you wondering what kind of research Billingham did. He gives the gang members a very realistic and loud voice and leaves you feeling that you know a little about London's gang community by the time you have read the last page.
Billingham has written a very accomplished stand alone novel and without spoiling anything for Thorne Fans, he does make an appearance in this book, albeit just a cameo.
The plot is well thought out, the characters are believable, the setting is a London that I think Billingham lays out better than anyone and the pace is just right.
In The Dark was originally published in hardback in 2008 by Mark Billingham's publishers 'Little, Brown Books'.
This review refers to the paperback edition released by 'Sphere' publishing in 2009.
The paperback version is 435 pages long and contains a small excerpt from the Tom Thorne novel 'Bloodline' at the back of the book.
It was printed and bound in Great Britain by Clays Ltd, St Ives PLC.
The type set is Plantin.
Mark Billingham Novels:
Tom Thorne Series:
The Burning Girl
From The Dead
In The Dark - The first standalone novel from Mark Billingham
Mark Billingham was born in the Midlands in Birmingham. Another coincidence, as that is where I was born. Maybe we are related? He started out as an actor and eventually became a regular on the stand-up comedy circuit. He wrote his first Tom Thorne novel, 'Sleepyhead' in 2001 and has gone on to win various writing awards and has garnered a cult following or rather Thorne has.
He also has a cult following amongst children for his 'Triskellion' series, which he wrote under the pseudonym 'Will Peterson'. Not sure whether this alludes to 'Grissom' from C.S.I or not. Maybe Billingham is a fan?
The Thorne novels have been turned into a TV series and series two is currently being filmed.
Mark lives in London with his wife and two children.
I would definitely recommend 'In The Dark' as it is a good read while enjoying a coffee or lying in bed at night. It kept me interested and Billingham's Dialogue is believable, so it works.
It's not a hard novel to read and doesn't concern itself with becoming to embroiled in every why and where. You can relax into this one quite easily for a book of over four hundred pages.
If you're a fan of the Thorne novels then you have to read this. You can almost feel Thorne's anger at the temerity of Billingham writing a novel that's not about him; although he did manage to bully his way in!
I for one can't wait to read the ninth instalment in the Thorne series and this book filled in the gap nicely.
©Lee Billingham 2012
This is another book that has been sitting around my house gathering dust. I tried to read it a few months ago got 2 chapters in and for whatever reason gave up. My friend raved about it so I thought I would give it another try.
I had heard a lot of good things about Mark Billingham and his novels everyone raved about his DI Thorne novels, In the Dark is his first novel without his main character.
I have to admit is took me a while to get into the book, the first few chapters jumped around the different characters setting the scene but it felt kind of slow and I felt I had to stick with it.
It is kind of hard to describe what the book is about without giving anything away but also because it was a bit all over the place, well written, but not what I was expecting. In the Dark is a crime novel that follows different stories that are all connected in some way. There is a young couple of police officers about to have a baby with a load of their own problems, when one of them dies in unusual circumstances. There is a crew of drug dealers in Lewisham who live on the wrong side of the law. Some hardened old timer criminals who know more than they are telling and a number of police who have jobs to do and questions to answer. All of these stories are connected and many in surprising ways.
I am still not 100% sure about this book, however I stuck with it to the end as I wanted to know what happened but I didn't feel engrossed in the story and didn't relate or really care about the characters.
Many of the reviews and comments about the book went on about a clever and shocking final twist and while the book had many twists by the end I wasn't too bothered and didn't think it was that dramatic a twist. I was actually quite disappointed by this book which is a real shame as I was hoping to like Mark Billingham's work. Maybe one day I'll read one of his Tom Thorne books but not any time soon.
If you are a Mark Billingham fan this might be up your street it just wasn't for me.
Never mind you win some and lose some, on to my next book.
The book is available to buy on Amazon for £3.98 with a recommended rrp of £6.99.
In the Dark - Mark Billingham
Description: Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Mark Billingham / Hardcover / 384 Pages / Book is published 2008-08-07 by Little, Brown.
I have been a fan of Mark Billingham for quite a while and read all of his books containing DI Tom Thorne. This book is not part of the Thorne series though he does feature very briefly.
The book tells us the story of an off duty policeman who is killed in what appears to be a gang initiation gone wrong. The police officer leaves a heavily pregnant girlfriend (also in the police force) who is keen to discover what really happened to her partner.
When you first begin to read the book, it seems to focus on gang crime in London, but the story soon takes a different twist and you realise that there is a lot more to this situation than meets the eye.
I will not say anything more about the plot, as I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read it, and in my opinion, there is nothing worse than knowing what is going to happen before you start reading a book!
This book is well written and gritty but to be honest, I found it a little disappointing. The story has a few too many twists and turns and becomes a bit unlikely as a result.
I also found the ending a bit disappointing, I had hoped for a gripping climax but instead, felt like I was left with too many unanswered questions and a vague feeling of "oh, is that it?".
In my opinion, this wasn't the best by Mark Billingham which was a shame because I had high hopes for it. It was an okay read but nothing special and I probably wouldn't recommend that you rush out and buy it.
3 stars from me - must try harder next time Billingham!
I've been a fan of Mark Billingham and his DI Tom Thorne character since his debut novel. Like many series do, though, I did feel that a couple of the more recent novels suggested that Billingham was running out of ideas of things to do with Thorne. So it was a minor relief that his latest novel "In the Dark" was to be a standalone one, even if early optimism was dulled by the rather clichéd tagline "...it's where fear lives", which didn't seem quite in keeping with Billingham's normal style.
Late one night, a driver sees a car travelling with no lights on. Being a good citizen, she flashes her own lights to warn them. Unfortunately for her, travelling in the car are some gang members putting one of their number through an initiation. The car turns around and coming alongside, the occupants shoot at her, causing her to swerve off the road and kill a man standing at a bus stop.
This sets off a chain of events. The victim was a police officer, which puts them on high alert, determined to find the person who killed one of their own. However, it seems that this may have been a dodgy copper with a link to some shady characters, who are also out for revenge and aren't constrained by the same rules as the police. The victim's partner, a police officer on maternity leave as she's 8 months pregnant, is also keen to find out more, especially as it appears that her partner was keeping secrets from her.
This is typically Billingham, throwing the reader straight into the heart of the story and moving it on from there. From the first page, you know this is going to be a story about gangs in London, but it soon becomes apparent it will go deeper than that. As more and more information comes to light, the story becomes more rounded and you get to follow the main characters as they set about life and death matters.
For a while, the story read a lot like the film "Kidulthood", seeming to be mostly about life with the gang and following them. But at a point where I was starting to think it was maybe getting a little dull and wondering how things would end, there's a sneaky little twist that threw away any thoughts of how the story may end and pushed it off in an unexpected direction. This was at a point where I simply had to know what happened and I ended up turning down a good night's sleep as I felt compelled to see how things ended. This is also typically Billingham, drawing the reader in and then totally hooking them.
Billingham's strength is in the realism of his stories. He takes real life, weaves it with strands of fiction and comes up with a story that you could quite feasibly see on the news, or as part of a storyline in "The Bill". The use of language with all the characters seems quite realistic and helps keep the groups distinct from each other. Billingham always keeps the pace high and the action flowing and there is very little here that feels wasted; everything is important later on, even the parts that you don't realise are important until it's nearly too late.
The major downfall here is in the characterisation. Whilst the groups of people who feature here; the police, the gangs and those involved in killing the gang, within these groups each individual member is not well drawn. Billingham doesn't seem to work well in helping the reader visualise the characters, so they all seem quite faceless; or in the case of the pregnant woman, faceless with a large belly. This does make it quite difficult in knowing exactly where sympathies should lie as a reader, especially as there is no good and bad here, just different levels of bad.
Fortunately, the pace of the story and the high action level prevented me from worrying about this too much. There were a couple of points where I got characters mixed up with each other, but this didn't happen all that often. There were also a couple of points where I had to check back for the exact role of some of the minor characters, as they were mostly sketched over and tended to blend into the background until they were needed to add to the story, a little like the chorus in a Shakespearean play. Again, this wasn't a big enough distraction to ruin the story, but it was enough to unsettle the flow of reading, especially as the pace and intrigue was kept fairly high.
Ultimately, though, this is a gritty and realistic crime drama, certainly in keeping to Billingham's normally high standards. Existing fans will chuckle at the realisation of who the DI they call "Spiky Bugger" is and newcomers to Billingham's work will likely be impressed by how real the whole thing feels. It's like the news; only in more depth and with a much greater entertainment level and at prices from as low as 99 pence on eBay, it's definitely worth a look and, indeed, for something this good, even prices like £3.75 from Green Metropolis or £6.75 from the Amazon Marketplace don't seem too much to pay.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk