CTG Reviews: The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

The Bones Beneath cover image

The Bones Beneath cover image

What the blurb says: “Tom Thorne is back in charge – but there’s a terrifying price to pay. Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous psychopath he has ever put behind bars, promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried twenty-five years before. But only if Thorne agrees to escort him.

Unable to refuse, Thorne gathers a team and travels to a remote Welsh island, at the mercy of the weather and cut off from the mainland. Thorne is determined to get the job done and return home before Nicklin can outwit them.

But Nicklin knows this island well and has had time to plan ahead. Soon, new bodies are added to the old, and Thorne finds himself facing the toughest decision he has ever had to make …”

The latest book in Mark Billingham’s bestselling Tom Thorne series takes Thorne away from his home turf, reluctantly chaperoning one of the most dangerous criminals from his past on a trip to Ynys Enlli – Bardsey Island – to locate and retrieve the body of a teenager.

Part road-trip, part closed location mystery, the suspense builds right from the outset. Stuart Nicklin is a master manipulator without a shred of remorse for his victims and their families, yet he says he’s willing to lead the police to the body of one of his early kills in order for the boy’s mother to get closure. The catch – Tom Thorne must be the police officer to escort him. But Thorne knows the trip isn’t about any sense of conscience Nicklin has about what he did, so why does he want to take a trip to the island now?

As Thorne and his team, along with prisoners Nicklin and Batchelor, make the journey there’s a real sense of impending doom. With every page the tension ratchets up as you, the reader, wait to see where, when and on who the axe will fall first. And fall it does.

The beautiful, but remote, island of Ynys Enlli makes the small group geographically isolated. At the mercy of the weather, and limited by the small amount of equipment they could bring, the team start their search for the body. But finding it is only their first challenge.

Thorne is more isolated than ever before. Cut off from those he loves, and unable to get a mobile phone signal in anywhere but one spot on the island, there seems to be an even greater intensity to his personal sense of being alone.

And the relationship between Thorne and Nicklin is grating and tense. Nicklin tries his upmost to taunt and provoke Thorne, while Thorne battles to keep his reactions in check and stay professional. They’re well matched adversaries – smart, savvy and both determined to stop the other getting the upper hand. But as the full extent of Nicklin’s plan is put into play, the body count rises, and Thorne is forced to make an impossible choice.

This tense, suspenseful and claustrophobically gripping story hooked me in from the beginning and kept me reading into the early hours because I just couldn’t put the book down. A truly fabulous read.

Highly Recommended.


Bonus Features:

The inner cover of the book includes a detailed map of Ynys Enlli – Bardsey Island. Its beauty and inaccessibility is central to the story and having read about it I’m tempted to visit – although I’m not sure I’d want to stay there overnight!

Another bonus for Thorne fans (and lovers of great country music) is the road-trip playlist at the back of the book with some great tracks from artists including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline, Laura Cantrell, Steve Earle and My Darling Clementine.

[I bought my own copy of The Bones Beneath]