First Monday Crime – Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Tonight is the final First Monday Crime of the year and it’s a Christmas special – not just one panel but two! Mark Billingham, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Alex  Marwood, Paula Daly, Daniel Pembrey and Corrie Jackson will all be talking to Barry Forshaw. I will do my best to take as many notes as I can (I think I have a few pages left in my trusty notebook) and will report back!

But in the meantime, I’ve had the chance to read Die of Shame by Mark Billingham. I’d like to thank Little, Brown for a review copy.


The Review


I know it’s said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but… this is a gorgeous one! Not just because of how it looks but how it feels. It’s very tactile and my daughter said it felt wet. But as we all know, a great cover is not enough. Thankfully, this novel is packed with great characters and a very intriguing plot line. It also has a giant killer cheese and a brief mention of my favourite band, Mumford and Sons. Really, what’s not to like?

Tony is a therapist. He has lots of different clients but his Monday night session is a recovery group for addicts with varying addictions – drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating etc. Although all appear to be doing ok on the surface, Tony wants to get to the real root of the problem – the shame that drove them to addiction in the first place. As the group begins to reveal their secrets, it becomes clear that someone’s shame will be the motive for their death.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner takes on the murder case. Faced with a group of people bound by confidentiality, she’s sure that the answer lies with them. If she can discover the secret shame of the victim, then maybe she can find the killer.

As I said earlier, this book is packed full of great characters, each with distinct voices. Billingham has written this in two time periods, cunningly known as Now and Then. This means we see the characters both before and after the murder. I was desperately searching for clues but as to be expected, Billingham is a master at hiding them. But the cleverest thing about the two time periods, is how they’ve been written. Now is written in the past tense but Then is written in the present tense. The latter creates tension as we, the readers, walk with the main characters towards the night in question.

Although Die of Shame is primarily a crime book, Billingham has written with great sensitivity about addictions and the problems that addicts face. He cites the professionals that have helped him and the depth of research is evident in the authenticity of the therapy sessions.

Obviously, Mark Billingham is known more for his Tom Thorne series but this is a standalone novel featuring DI Nicola Tanner who is considerably different to Thorne. Without wanting to give too much away, there is some resolution in Die of Shame but Billingham has left an opportunity for the story to continue. I really hope this happens, albeit in a different guise.

But wait, I hear you cry! You promised us a giant killer cheese! Indeed, I did. Sometimes, crime and thriller books are so full of tension that there is no room for a laugh. Not so with Mark Billingham. I could paraphrase but then you would lose the genius that made me laugh out loud.

‘She [Tanner] didn’t read much now, and certainly not crime. There was a time when she and Susan might have watched an occasional crime drama on TV, but Susan’s tastes were distinctly cosy and Tanner had finally called a halt to the nonsense after seeing a victim of Midsomer Murders dispatched by a giant cheese.’


If you want to find out more about Mark Billingham and buy Die of Shame then click here


First Monday Crime is a sell out for tonight. If you have bought tickets but are now unable to go, please get in touch with Goldsboro Books as there is a waiting list. Hope to see some of you there tonight at Browns – The Judges Court, 82-84 St Martins Lane, London, WC2n 4AG at 6.30.



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