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Mark Billingham's Scaredy Cat is as inventive his previous serial killer novel a Sleepyhead. Detective Inspector Tom Thorne has the job of watching out for patterns and thinks he spots one--two similar killings on the same day; women followed from a mainline station and then strangled. Rapidly, though, it becomes clear that the methods differed in all sorts of ways--one killing was controlled, the other frenzied--and the timings do not work out. On a hunch, Thorne checks for other such pairings and finds them--this time two killers are working as a team, one setting the other challenges.
We know what Thorne does not, that all of this has to do with things that happened at school years ago; we also know a lot more than Thorne about the demons that drive some of his own investigating team. Billingham sets himself some complicated technical challenges here--flashes back and forwards, and closeups of killers' minds that keep crucial information from us--and some of the complications don't quite work. Overall, though, this is a terrifying exploration of brutal madness, made all the more so by touches of compassion for the killer's victims--the killer may think this a game, but we and Thorne know it is not.--Roz Kaveney --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Billingham's second thriller (after Sleepyhead) featuring London Det. Insp. Tom Thorne offers a twist on the serial killer subgenre. Brooding, melancholy Thorne heads a team of detectives who are alerted to the death of a young mother brutally strangled as her three-year-old son looks on. The body of a second murder victim, strangled in the same manner, turns up the same day, and Thorn and his team surmise they have a serial killer on their hands. The first half of the book deals with Thorne's discovery that there are really two killers at work and introduces the childhood backstory of the murderers. The second half picks up speed as the actual hunt commences. Billingham is adept at creating believable characters with ordinary and not-so-ordinary personal problems, then weaving them into the plot in surprising ways. At times, though, he pushes too hard to make Thorne's colleagues quirky: "Thorne stared at the figure in black fleece, with shaved head and a startling collection of facial piercings. Phil Hendricks was not everyone's idea of a pathologist, but he was the best Thorne had ever worked with." Thorne's gloomy internal musings on death and guilt tend to slow things down, but Billingham's handling of the plot is deft, fair and scattered with enough red herrings to open a fish and chips shop. When the mastermind behind both sets of killings is revealed in a dramatic denouement, readers will give the author his due and settle back to wait for the next installment of this dependable series.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Thorne is a member of London's Metropolitan Police and works with the Serious Crime Group - officially, they investigate crimes that don't quite 'fit' anywhere else. Known to some as 'The Weeble', he's stubborn, can be a little tactless and doesn't always play by the rules. Thorne is also divorced - he currently lives alone, is having trouble with his dad and doesn't socialise a great deal. Occasionally, he will take in a football game and a few beers with Phil Hendricks, the team's pathologist. Hendricks, it has to be said, isn't quite Quincy : he has plenty of piercings (one for each ex-boyfriend), is shaven-headed and certainly appears to be the best friend Thorne has. (As this is the first book by Billingham I've read, I have no idea what part - if any - Hendricks played in Thorne's divorce). The two officers Thorne works most closely with are Sarah McEvoy and Dave Holland. Holland, despite having a girlfriend called Sophie, has taken a serious interest in both his career and in McEvoy. McEvoy, on the other hand, has taken quite an interest in <ahem> 'someone' called 'Charlie'.
The team has been assigned to a suspected serial killer. Two women have been killed in remarkably similar circumstances. One, a single mother called Carol Garner, was strangled at home in front of her three-year old son.Read more ›
Hate being told how many words to write
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
vague obtainable between he and himself .
This book has been an improvement.
(Submitted this review in Nov 2004)
SCAREDY CAT is an almost unrelievedly grim police procedural, though the setting is not a fictionalized New York City but rather modern-day London. The novel focuses on a series of murders being investigated by Team 3 of the unimaginatively named Serious Crime Group (West) of the Met, London Metropolitan Police. Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, introduced in SLEEPYHEAD, is back, and Billingham continues his slow and methodical sketching of Thorne's personality. Thorne may well be one of the most quietly complex characters in modern detective fiction; just when the reader thinks he or she has a handle on him, there is a twist or a turn, and suddenly one's opinion, one's conception, needs revision. Thorne is no genius, and he knows it. This is important; he is able to admit mistakes and to turn, albeit grudgingly, on a dime to correct them, even as he is weighed down by regret.
Ah, and the series of murders. Two women are murdered in London, some distance apart, with enough similarities to convince the police that they are, at least initially, the work of the same person. The murders resemble a pair of killings that occurred several months previously in which two other women were killed on the same day, apparently at the same time. Thorne comes to the conclusion that the two pairs of killings are linked, and that there is not one killer, but two, working in tandem with each other. He is horrified to further realize that, every time one body is found, there will be another waiting to be discovered. And while the methods of the murders may be the same, the killers themselves, it seems, are very, very different.
As the reader follows Thorne and his team (a group of extremely interesting individuals, to say the least) through their investigation, Billingham describes the intricacies of the investigators, the murderers and the survivors, the relatives of the victims left behind in death's wake. And while the identity of one of the murderers is revealed relatively early, the other is not revealed to either Thorne or the reader until the very end. The result is a novel with such skilled pacing that it is almost excruciatingly painful to read it without finishing it in one sitting. Yet it is simultaneously a novel of such simple craft, such intelligence, that one wants to savor it slowly. The result is an interesting dichotomy that few writers are able to achieve.
It is not necessary to read SLEEPYHEAD prior to reading SCAREDY CAT, though a reader introduced to one will inevitably be drawn to the other. Billingham, with only two novels, has become a writer who will undoubtedly be added to many "must-read" lists. Oh, one other thing about SCAREDY CAT: this book has perhaps the saddest Epilogue I have ever read. Don't skip ahead --- you won't really get it unless you read the whole book. And you'll definitely want to read the whole book.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub