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Buried    by Mark Billingham order for
by Mark Billingham
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is back in this sixth in the series, following Lifeless, in which he went undercover as a homeless person in London. Buried's rather perplexing opening shows readers the seemingly accidental death of a woman after a disclosure that left her desperately anxious about her children. This episode makes sense at the end of the book.

Next, the story segues into a scene where a kidnapped sixteen-year-old, Luke, makes a recording, addressing his mother. Only then do readers join Tom Thorne. Out of favor - as is the norm - with his ultimate boss, Chief Superintendant Trevor Jesmond, he's given the chance to escape the interminable paperwork and work with the Kidnap Unit on Luke Mullen's case. Luke, who attended an exclusive private school, was last seen in the company of a young woman. His father, a retired police superintendant, puts on the pressure but, oddly enough, forgets to include in his list of possible enemies a convicted child molester, Grant Freestone, who has repeatedly threatened him and is also a suspectt in a murder.

Tom Thorne, who's still grieving for his father and having problems with a bad back, finds it very pleasant working with DI Louise Porter, despite his misgivings about a variety of aspects of the case, and increasing anxiety about Luke's safety. As threads relating to the kidnapping are uncovered and traced, readers are introduced to another case involving Thorne's colleagues, that of an unsolved hate crime, with links to Luke's school. Mark Billingham lays out his plot with omniscience and at a steady pace, via a wide variety of points of view - from police officers, perpetrators and victims to minor players. Though at times hard to track all of this, it does give a good sense of the minutiae of detail in a puzzle of this nature.

Every time the police seem to be getting close to the kidnappers, the author throws a wrench into his wheels within wheels, sending the case careening off in a new direction. In this smooth, sophisticated and surprising thriller, Tom Thorne is reminded to challenge assumptions, while readers discover that well-meaning efforts towards public protection can boomerang with unintended consequences. If you enjoy a solid, meticulously plotted British police procedural that's tough to second guess, then you must read Buried.

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