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by Mark Billingham
Sphere, March 2012
528 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0751544973

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When police officer Helen Weeks finds herself on the wrong end of a gun in her local newsagents, it isn't being pointed at her by one of the customers but by the owner of the shop, a man who she's always liked and shared a friendly word with. Javed Akhtar is desperate to find out the truth about the death of his son, Amin, in prison. On the face it it, Amin seems to have killed himself, but his father doesn't believe that and wants Detective Inspector Tom Thorne to get to the bottom of what really happened.

GOOD AS DEAD moves on at a rapid pace, alternating scenes of mounting tension inside the shop for Weeks and her fellow hostage a man in the wrong place at the wrong time with the progress of Thorne's investigation on the outside, which takes him deep into the heart of the Young Offenders Institution where Amin died. Thorne soon becomes certain that Akhtar is right and that his son's death wasn't a simple case of a troubled young man ending his own life, but it isn't enough to suspect that, Thorne has to prove it.

The book does a good job of a fairly standard storyline, that of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events and I was sufficiently gripped by both parts of the narrative to stay on board, even through the frequent use of the irritating anachronism, WPC, when referring to female officers. I really don't understand why this is still as prevalent as it is amongst crime writers when even a modicum of research would reveal that the term went out of common use over 20 years ago. If I had a pound for every time that mistake gets made I'd be very well off indeed. I have sworn in the past not to keep reading any book that makes a mistake like this, but GOOD AS DEAD did manage to overcome that hurdle and keep me reading.

Billingham, in common with a great many other crime writers, struggles with the problem of how to explain what has happened to the reader and overcomes it here in a way that isn't wholly convincing although it does manage to drag the reader along by the scruff of the neck in company with the guilty party as Thorne races against time in an increasingly unstable situation. I cared enough about the fate of those involved, and about Amin Akhtar's death, to keep reading, which is what matters most at the end of the day.

GOOD AS DEAD appears in the US as THE DEMANDS.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, April 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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