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In the Dark    by Mark Billingham order for
In the Dark
by Mark Billingham
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Harper, 2008 (2008)
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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Readers of top-notch British police procedurals are already familiar with award-winning Mark Billingham's outstanding Tom Thorne series (reviewed previously here at BookLoons). Now fans of quality mysteries have an opportunity to enjoy a different and equally exciting book from Billingham. In the Dark, as a stand-alone novel, offers up a new cast of characters, and - as is typical of Billingham novels - these characters are complicated, compelling, and colorful.

When Paul Hopwood, a police officer with Kennington's CID, is run down and killed during a deadly automobile crash on a rainy night in south London, the dark and disturbing truth about what really happened is obscured by a fascinating series of difficulties. At first, a sordid gang initiation - involving a smalltime hoodlum's firing of a handgun into a passing car - seems to be the horrifying catalyst for all that happened on that fatal night. However, Paul's lover Helen Weeks - a member of the police department on prenatal maternity leave - draws upon her considerable instincts as a cop, bends more than a few rules, stumbles upon a few tantalizing clues, bruises some egos, and exposes herself to certain violence on her way to learning that something else (and someone else) really had a big stake in all that happened that night.

Secrets and surprises dominate In the Dark as smalltime thugs, big stakes mobsters, presumably honorable associates, and an unstoppable woman converge in a thrilling, breathtaking ending. Episodic in structure, much like a made-for-TV-movie (which is more than understandable given the author's background), Billingham's latest novel further enhances his steadily growing reputation for writing tautly plotted tales in which multifaceted characters are dispatched on a collision that is dominated by irony, danger, and excitement.

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