Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scaredy Cat - Mark Billingham

2002; 419 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book #2 in the "Tom Thorne" series (out of 10).  Genre : Psycho Killer.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    In London, two women are strangled, one in the presence of her three-year-old son.  The twin crimes are separated by only a couple hours and a couple miles.  What murderer would have so much rage in him that he would strike twice in a single day?  Unless...

What's To Like...
This is not so much a "who-dun-it", as it is a "howie-gonna-findim".  The pacing is good, and every time you grit your teeth in anticipation of a clichéd event, Billingham twists the story in a new direction.

    Even better, Scaredy Cat is a well-constructed murder-mystery.  The denouement is neither too obvious nor too arbitrary.  The case-breaking clue was logical, and overlooked by both Detective Tom Thorne and myself for far too long.

    Mark Billingham's handling of Tom Thorne has improved from the first book, Sleepyhead, reviewed here.  Yes, he's still the stereotyped burnt-out cop, but it's played down here.  And at least the psycho killer doesn't try to take out our hero.

Kewlest New Word...
Swotty : Studious; given to studying hard  (British slang)

    He'd seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of photos like these.  He'd stared at them over the years with the same dispassionate eye that a dentist might cast over X rays, or an accountant across a tax return.  He'd lost count of the pale limbs, twisted or torn or missing altogether in black-and-white ten-by-eights.  Then there were the color prints.  Pale bodies lying on green carpets.  A ring of purple bruises around a chalk-white neck.  The garish patterned wallpaper against which the blood spatter is barely discernible.
    An ever expanding exhibition with a simple message: emotions are powerful things, bodies are not. (pgs. 11-12)

    Forced laughter and instant guilt.
    It was usually the joke that came first.  "Tom, what is ET short for?"
    "Go on, Dad..."
    "Because he's only got little legs."  (pg. 86)

"Let us drink beer and talk of death."  (pg. 33)
    Wikipedia gives an interesting anecdote about Scaredy Cat.  It is apparently based on a personal experience of Mark Billingham's.  While staying at a hotel with a writing partner, three masked men burst into their room, bound and gagged the pair, and stole various items and credit cards.  Their brazenness and absolute control of the situation totally terrified Billingham.  And he resolved to work that feeling (and some of the details of the incident) into his next novel, Scaredy Cat.

    He succeeded nicely.  8 Stars.

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