RUSH OF BLOOD (Little, Brown) is his second standalone thriller.
The story opens in Florida, where three British couples - Angie and Barry, Ed and Sue, and Marina and Dave - are on holiday when a teenage girl, Amber-Marie Wilson, disappears from their holiday resort. The girl is later discovered murdered.
Detective Jeff Gardner takes a personal interest in the case, mainly because if he doesn’t, Amber-Marie’s mother, Patty-Lee, will be left totally bereft.
On their return to the UK, the British couples resume contact with one another over a series of dinner parties, which expose the quirks and frailties of their personal relationships. This is heightened by the fact that another young girl goes missing in the UK, in similar circumstances to the Florida case.
Jenny Quinlan, a young trainee constable, is given the job of querying the British tourists as to their movements while in Florida when the trans-Atlantic connection becomes evident. The increased scrutiny puts the couples under pressure, and cracks quickly begin to appear in their stories. But which of the six is the child-killer?
Mark Billingham’s 12th crime novel is an expertly plotted ‘whodunit’ thriller, although it’s fair to say that Billingham is here far more interested in characterisation than he is in constructing a puzzle-based plot. All six main characters are fleshed out beautifully, particularly in terms of how they behave in a class-based hierarchy, while the subsidiary characters of Jeff Gardner and Jenny Quinlan are also well handled.
Billingham also includes a ‘seventh’ character - the voice of the killer, delivered in italics, explaining as the story progresses as to why he or she killed the girls.
Equally entertaining, for the crime aficionado, is the running commentary on the conventions of the crime novel itself. Most of these come courtesy of the killer, in which traditional motives and modus operandi are dismissed as the stuff of melodrama, although both Jeff Gardner and Jenny Quinlan reference TV shows and books when comparing fictional policing with its real-life counterpart. It’s intriguing to wonder whether Billingham is conducting a conversation with the reader, his fellow crime writers, or himself …
All told, RUSH OF BLOOD is a terrific thriller on a number of levels: as a whodunit puzzle, as a character-based investigation into social interaction, and as a clever and occasionally cutting commentary on the contemporary crime novel. - Declan Burke
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.