In Association with

Author of the Month

Name: Mark Billingham

First book: Sleepyhead

Most Recent Book: Lifeless


To his friends, his foes and even to himself it looks as though Tom Thorne's career is on the skids. On his last case he had seriously over-stepped the mark, and now gardening leave has been suggested meaning that all he has to tend to is a window box. When it appears that someone is targeting London's homeless community it seems perfectly natural for Thorne to take a step nearer to the gutter and go undercover amongst them.

He blends into this invisible community easily - too easily perhaps - but the information he gleans quickly proves that this is no random killer. This is someone with a very distinct purpose and a very specific list of victims. Sadly, the team supporting Thorne from the outside does not have the key to either motive or identity.

Then, somehow, the fact that a policeman is working under cover becomes headline news and not only does Thorne have to find out who is the killer, he also has to make sure that he doesn’t become the next victim!



Tom Thorne returns as disagreeable and friendless as ever. Thorne is spending time on gardening leave, which is possibly the worst thing he could think of doing. So when he sees an opportunity to work undercover, and to get back to the job he knows he is good at, he jumps at the chance.

Thorne moves into the world of the homeless in London, and his character and demeanour are both perfectly suited to this role. He needs to find out who is killing the vulnerable in this community and, more to the point, why. Thorne is sure once he finds out why these people are being chosen; it will be possible to find the killer.

This summer Mark Billingham’s latest book, Lifeless, is going to take him into the superstar league!

Reviewed by H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating



1) Name:
Mark Billingham

2) First Book:

3) Most recent book:

4) How would you describe your books?
Dark, disturbing police procedurals.

5) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
It changes almost daily but if I can pick one or two from different eras : The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, The Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos.

6) Would you describe yourself as a Crime fan and if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I’m a massive crime fan, It’s the reason I became a crime writer in the first place. Again, there are many writers I admire hugely and the list is growing all the time. In terms of those still writing it would certainly include : James Crumley, Ian Rankin, Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly, John Harvey, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, John Connolly, Denise Mina, Lawrence Block, Peter Robinson, Val McDermid, Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman

7) Without giving away the plot, which book included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Possibly the moment in “Silence Of The Lambs” when you realise that Clarice Starling is at the right house. Or should that be the wrong house?

8) Which camp do you fall in? Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers?
Why? Neither I’m afraid. the so-called Golden Age of British crime writing rather leaves me cold. I think it’s very much of its time so it’s a little harsh to judge it by the same standards we apply now, but I find it hard to care when so much emphasis was placed on plotting.

9) Who, in your eyes, is pushing the boundaries of crime fiction today – and why?
There are many writers, a lot of them listed above who do that. Crime fiction can say as much, or more about the world we live in than any other genre and there are writers, such as Pelecanos in Washington, and Rankin in Edinburgh whose work will come to be seen as a fantastic piece of social history of those cities.

10) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
“Double Indemnity” is pretty good. “Silence Of the Lambs” is very faithful to the book. I think I’d rather watch original screenplays than adaptations of books.

11) Where do you see Crime fiction going next?
I think ‘noir’ is very much in vogue at the moment. The pioneers of the form as popular as ever and there are a number of amazing young noir writers coming through on both sides of the Atlantic.

12) What was it that started Mark Billingham the comedian becoming Mark Billingham the crime writer?
The discovery that people that read books didn’t throw things at you!