Luke Mullen, the missing teenage son of a former police officer, was last seen getting into a car with an older woman. No one knows whether he went willingly or was abducted, whether he's living or dead.
Then the videotape arrives . . .
On special assignment, Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is in charge of the investigation into Luke's disappearance. But it's the information that Tony Mullen, the boy's father, is not freely sharing that Thorne finds particularly disturbing—like the names of dangerous criminals who have openly threatened the tough ex-detective and his entire family. Something shocking and deadly may well be buried deep in old cases and past lives. But Thorne knows he doesn't have the luxury of time to dig—especially when a kidnapper brutally demonstrates that he is willing to kill.
About the Author
Mark Billingham is the author of nine novels, including Sleepyhead, Scaredy Cat, Lazybones, The Burning Girl, Lifeless, and Buried—all Times (London) bestsellers—as well as the stand-alone thriller In the Dark. For the creation of the Tom Thorne character, Billingham received the 2003 Sherlock Award for Best Detective created by a British writer, and he has twice won the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. He has previously worked as an actor and stand-up comedian on British television and still writes regularly for the BBC. He lives in London with his wife and two children.
Read an Excerpt
There was humor, of course there was; off-color usually, and downright black when the occasion demanded it. Still, the jokes had not exactly been flying thick and fast of late, and none had flown in Tom Thorne's direction.
But this was as good a laugh as he'd had in a while.
"Jesmond asked for me?" he said.
Russell Brigstocke leaned back in his chair, enjoying the surprise that his shock announcement had certainly merited. It was an uncertain world. The Metropolitan Police Service was in a permanent state of flux, and, while precious little could be relied upon, the less than harmonious relationship between Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and the Chief Superintendent of the Area West Murder Squad was a reassuring constant. "He was very insistent."
"The pressure must be getting to him," Thorne said. "He's losing his marbles."
Now it was Brigstocke's turn to see the funny side. "Why am I suddenly thinking about pots and kettles?"
"I've no idea. Maybe you've got a thing about kitchenware."
"You've been going on about wanting something to get stuck into. So—"
"With damn good reason."
Brigstocke sighed, nudged at the frames of his thick, black glasses.
It was warm in the office, with spring kicking in but the radiators still chucking out heat at December levels. Thorne stood and slipped off his brown leather jacket. "Come on, Russell, you know damn well that I haven't been given anything worth talking about for near enough six months."
Six months since he'd worked undercover on the streets of London, trying to catch theman responsible for kicking three of the city's homeless to death. Six months spent writing up domestic disputes, protecting the integrity of evidence chains, and double checking pretrial paperwork. Six months kept out of harm's way.
"This is something that needs getting stuck into," Brigstocke said. "Quickly."
Thorne sat back down and waited for the Detective Chief Inspector to elaborate.
"It's a kidnapping—" Brigstocke held up a hand as soon as Thorne began to shake his head; plowed on over the groaning from the other side of his desk. "A sixteen-year-old boy, taken from outside a school in north London three days ago."
The shake of the head became a knowing nod. "Jesmond doesn't want me on this at all, does he? It's got nothing to do with what I can do, or what I might be good at. He's just been asked to lend the Kidnap Unit a few bodies, right? So he does what he's told like a good team player, and he gets me out of the way at the same time. Two birds with one stone."
A spider plant stood on one corner of Brigstocke's desk, its dead leaves drooping across a photograph of his kids. He snapped off a handful of the browned and brittle stalks and began crushing them between his hands. "Look, I know you've been pissed off and I know you've had good reason to be . . ."
"Damn good reason," Thorne said. "I'm feeling much better than I was, you know that. I'm . . . up for it."
"Right. But until the decision gets taken to give you a more active role on the team here, I thought you might appreciate the chance to get yourself 'out of the way.' And it wouldn't just be you, either. Holland's been assigned to this as well . . ."
Thorne stared out of the window, across the grounds of the Peel Centre toward Hendon and the gray ribbon of the North Circular Road beyond. He'd seen prettier views, but not for some time.
"His name's Luke Mullen."
"So the kid was taken . . . Friday, right? What's been happening for the last three days?"
"You'll be fully briefed at the Yard." Brigstocke glanced down at a sheet of paper on the desktop. "Your contact on the Kidnap Unit is Detective Inspector Porter. Louise Porter."
Thorne knew that Brigstocke was on his side; that he was caught between a loyalty to his team and a responsibility to the brass above him. These days, anyone of his rank was one part cop to nine parts politician. Many at Thorne's own level worked in much the same way, and Thorne would fight tooth and nail to avoid going down the same dreary route . . .
Brigstocke had certainly said the right things. The boy's age in itself was enough to spark Thorne's interest. The victims of those who preyed on children for sexual gratification were usually far younger. It wasn't that older children were not targeted, of course, but such abuse was often institutionalized or, most tragically of all, took place within the home itself. For a sixteen-year-old to be taken off the street was unusual.
"Trevor Jesmond getting involved means there's pressure to get a result," Thorne said. If a shrug and a half smile could be signs of enthusiasm, then he looked mustard-keen. "I reckon I could do with a bit of pressure at the minute."
"You haven't heard all of it yet."
So Brigstocke enlightened him, and when it was finished and Thorne got up to leave, he looked out of the window one last time.
The buildings sat opposite, brown and black and dirty-white; office blocks and warehouses, with pools of dark water gathered on their flat roofs. Thorne thought they looked like the teeth in an old man's mouth.
Before the car had reached the gates on its way out, Thorne had slotted a Bobby Bare CD into the player, taken one look at Holland's face and swiftly ejected it again. "I should make sure there's always a Simply Red album in the car," Thorne said. "So as not to offend your sensibilities."
"I don't like Simply Red."
Holland gestured toward the CD panel on the dash. "I don't mind some of your stuff. It's just all that twangy guitar shit . . ."
Thorne turned the car on to Aerodrome Road and accelerated toward Colindale tube. Once they hit the A5 it would be a straight run through Cricklewood, Kilburn, and south into town.Buried. Copyright © by Mark Billingham. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A missing child is the theme here but it gets more complicated when the child turns out to be a senior policeman's son. Great characterizations and surpirse twists and turns when Tom Thorne suspects that the parents haven't been completely open about the abduction. One of Billingham's best yet.
I wrote in a previous scribbling that I thought Graham Hurley just had the edge over Mark Billingham in the British crime writing stakes. Well I take that back. I put them neck and neck. I have read the DI Tom Thorn novels from the start and I have enjoyed the development of the characters. The denouncements to the stories are sometimes faintly ridiculous, but I love the language and the very dark humour. There are some great jokes in here!
A complex plot involving an unusual kidnapping of a teenage boy, with many plot twist and turns before the truth is revealed. Good characterisation and authentic London locations.
Mark Billingham writes great police procedurals set in North London (in and around Colindale station), which adds a certain something as his characters chase killers around places that I know. All of the DI Tom Thorne series are cracking good reads. They stand alone, though, so start on this one and then pick up all the rest!
My favorite Billingham book.
Pace was not as fast as his previous Thorne novels, but that's ok:) Still enjoyed it very much!
I am a big fan of Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne series; they always rate a 4-5 from me. This was another interesting plot and lot most Thorne stories, one with a crime story that is a good bit different not only from other books in the Thorne series but other crime fiction books period. (SPOILER ??) I don't think I'm giving away too much in mentioning that this is about a kidnapping without a _______ , well you can fill in the blank for yourself. One other note of some interest - for whatever reason, Billingham apparently doesn't want Thorne to get any, and once again at a climactic moment, disaster strikes (a very different disaster from the one at the conclusion of Lazybones).
This is a great series and is a must read for those who appreciate a great detective who is only flawed by his back problem. A real pragmatist whose life is defined by his devotion to catching bad guys.
In London, retired Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony Mullen and his wife Maggie report their sixteen years old son Luke kidnapped from his exclusive school by a sexy older woman. Anthony calls in favors from his former subordinate current Chief Superintendent Jesmond so that the Metropolitan Police Kidnap Unit is supplemented by cops from other departments. Thus Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, who normally works homicide, joins the kidnap task force. He and Kidnap Unit DI Louise Porter interview the Mullens and their daughter fourteen year old Juliet. The cops find major discrepancies as they do not understand why it took twos days for the Mullens to report Luke never came home or why no ransom has surfaced. Louise and Tom believe someone who has it out for Anthony is the culprit, but in spite of his previous job the retired cop gives them very few suspects to consider. As Tom keeps digging he believes the teen is dead, but refuses to quit on the chance the lad still lives and besides if a homicide occurred, he has culprit(s) to catch. --- This exhilarating English police procedural starts a bit slow as the audience meets a bored Tom (and his sore back), who has spent the last six months in an office as a paper monitor shuffling documents after his last undercover assignment. Thus he looks forward to working the kidnap investigation although that is not his expertise. Although the rotating perspective can prove a bit confusing, the twisting case is cleverly devised so that the audience will enjoy the inquiries of Tom and Louise as each is reminded that resolution does not mean a happy ending for anyone. --- Harriet Klausner