Mark Billingham's depiction of life on the more down at heel streets of London and the impacts on its socially challenged inhabitants is worryingly realistic. The young trigger-happy man has a child of his own. He wants to provide for his child like a real man should but feels trapped by the circumstances into which he has been born. Billingham sympathetically details the social factors that drive people into a life of crime, to the extent that this reader empathised with the shooter and hoped, as the story unfolded, that he might come out of it unscathed.
Billingham also scores in his highly unusual choice of detective. Helen Weeks is just days away from giving birth and her quest to find out about her dead lover's past while suffering heartburn, nausea and a variety of leeks leaves the reader feeling admiration, while worrying that she may give birth at any time on some gangster's polished wooden floor. This is a cracking read where Billingham skilfully places layer upon layers of action into his readers' mind, giving enough detail to tantalise, but not too much so that when the twist comes - as you know it will - you can't help but read with your mouth wide open. Mark Billingham has taken a big chance in moving away from Tom Thorne, the central character on whom he has built a highly successful career, with this standalone novel. Was it worth it? Absolutely.