Title: Die of Shame
Author: Mark Billingham
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: 7 June 2016
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley
Every Monday evening, six people gather in a smart North London house to talk about shame. A respected doctor, a well-heeled housewife, a young male prostitute . . . they could not be more different. All they have in common is a history of addiction. But when one of the group is murdered, it quickly becomes apparent that someone else in that circle is responsible. The investigation is hampered by the strict confidentiality that binds these individuals and their therapist together, which makes things difficult for Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner, a woman who can appreciate the desire to keep personal matters private. If she is to find the killer, she will need to use less obvious means. The question is: What could be shameful enough to cost someone their life? And how do you find the truth when secrets, lies, and denial are second nature to all of your suspects?
I was glad when my NetGalley request for this book was accepted because Mark Billingham was an author I had heard good things about but had never got around to reading. While he isn’t quite the type of author I usually read, the blurb made the book sound super interesting and I love a good mystery every now and then so I thought I would give Die of Shame a try. And I am glad that I did.
Die of Shame is a standalone mystery thriller by Mark Billingham. Each Monday night a group of six people get together as part of an ‘addiction recovery’ group. The people all come from different walks of life but they all have one thing in common, they are all suffering from some form of addiction. Until, mysteriously one of the group is found murdered and no one is willing to talk about what happened in that last session.
This is pretty different to the books that I normally read because it is much more character driven than plot driven. I usually like action-packed books and that is not what Die of Shame is. But I still really enjoyed it because it is a great mystery. I like to judge mysteries based on how convinced I was that I knew how it would end and then how wrong I turned out to be and by that measure, this book is a great mystery. Every second chapter I was convinced I knew who had done it and why, only for that prediction to change two chapters later.
As I already said, the characters are the main point of the book. I thought the five members of the group were quite interesting and were fleshed out very well throughout the book, which made it much more enjoyable. However I feel that some of the other main characters, mainly Tanner and the group leader Tony, were underdone and I would have liked to see them develop a bit more in the book. I especially would have liked to see more about Tony because he left me with more questions than answers, which is a little frustrating.
It took me a while to get used to the writing style, even though the style choices made sense. The book jumps back and forwards in time between the present and just before the murder, which took me a while to catch onto at the start. The other thing that threw me off at the start was the shifting in tenses, where the ‘then’ scenes were written in present tense and the ‘now’ scenes in the normal past tense. It really helped to differentiate between the two but it just felt weird reading a book written in the present tense and it took me a while to get used to it.
Overall, Die of Shame is a great mystery and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would considering it is not the type of book I would usually read. I know that it is marketed as a standalone novel, but I’m interested to see whether Billingham decides to continue the story on based on the way it ended.
Worth a read? If you’re a murder-mystery fan and love to be kept guessing, then Die of Shame is probably worth a read for you. The reading experience felt like a game of Cluedo for me, you know that one of the characters is guilty and the real enjoyment comes from trying to guess who did it and why.