THE BONES BENEATH by MARK BILLINGHAM (2014, Sphere, Paperback, 474pp) ∗∗∗½
Blurb: 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…
This is more of a pyschological thriller than mystery, although there are mysterious elements to the tight tale. Billingham has constructed a magnetic storyline and an unusual location. The rugged and remote Bardsey Island is captured well in Billingham’s descriptive writing and the Thorne/Nicklin needling relationship forms the central theme. Although the book strectches over more than 450 pages, the pace doesn’t really slacken as we are taken inside Nicklin’s psyche.
Although the strands that are hanging through the book come together in the finale, though there are elements that remain unresolved. Despite the familiarity of some of the plot elements, the unusual setting and strong characters make this book is another entertaining read from one of Britain’s best series writers.