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by Mark Billingham
Little, Brown, August 2012
387 pages
16.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847444210

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Inspector Tom Thorne proved a launchpad for Billingham's rapid rise through the ranks of crime writers. His first two books have already been filmed for TV. These and the following eight of Thorne's cases brought him critical awards for his writing and characterization. All ten made the best seller list.

Now he has at least temporarily sidelined his detective for an ambitious and brilliantly conceived and executed thriller about 'ordinary' people. Normal people like you and me. People you meet on holiday and get on well with. People you really know nothing about with all their fantasies, hang-ups and character defects. People who seemed so nice in a relaxed atmosphere thousands of miles from home who reveal their worst sides under the pressures of everyday life.

Three couples casually meet around the pool of a Florida holiday hotel. All are from or near London. Like most Brits abroad they form a clique against the locals, 'helping each other out'.

As always, there's an organiser. In this case it's failing educational salesman Ed Dunning, his company's products made redundant by IT. He's a man who is increasingly seeking solace in smutty jokes and sexual fantasies. He is married to his childhood sweetheart Sue, a teacher, quiet, withdrawn and well aware of her husband's peccadilloes.

Barry and Angie are both on their second marriages. She is a proud housewife, dedicating her life to her two children and her builder husband Barry, a man under both personal and business pressures and of increasingly uncertain temper. Dave and Marina are the odd couple. Unmarried, they seem an unlikely pair. He is a geeky IT games designer, she a good looking aspiring actress and writer. Both are struggling hard to appear totally normal while both hiding a difficult past.

The couples get along on a casual basis until the final night of their stay, when a teenage American girl who has been staying at the same hotel with her mother goes missing. The six are drawn together by the American police investigation and agree to keep in touch once back in the UK. They arrange a series of increasingly fraught dinner parties, tensions rising as they discover that their 'friends' are perhaps not the people they appeared in the Florida sun.

Tensions heighten when the girl's body is found and a request from the Sarasota police is made for a check on their possible British witnesses gives a young and unsure trainee woman detective the chance to show her worth. When a second girl goes missing just a few miles from all their homes, the pressure builds to a dramatic and bloody climax.

Billingham's characters are cleverly drawn and totally believable in all cases, the couple next door. Their problems, fears and passions could be our own. But throughout this brilliant book runs a streak of pure evil, the double killer's attempted justification and explanation for these ghastly deeds.

RUSH OF BLOOD is a book not to be missed.

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, August 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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