Evil mastermind returns to destroy Thorne


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Shudder and tremble and don’t dare breathe — it’s detective inspector Tom Thorne’s turn to be stalked by his own Professor Moriarty.

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Shudder and tremble and don’t dare breathe — it’s detective inspector Tom Thorne’s turn to be stalked by his own Professor Moriarty.

His name is Stuart Nicklin, a sociopathic butcher from Thorne’s past, but he’s basically author Mark Billingham’s version of Sherlock Holmes’ longtime nemesis.

The London copper was in an impossible dilemma — arrest Nicklin for ghastly crimes or rescue his pathologist pal Dr. Phil Hendricks, being tortured by Nicklin’s henchpersons. Thorne chose friendship.

Nicklin is still in the wind, but he’s back somewhere in London, vowing to destroy Thorne. Not kill him, which he could do pretty much any time, but take away everyone who matters to Thorne.

Like Moriarty, Nicklin can change identities and appearance at will, he’s always a step or two ahead of Thorne. He seems to have infinite resources from sources unknown to live somewhere securely but without being spotted, move about freely, use oodles of technology and have the power to compel henchpersons galore to do his bidding.

If this sounds similar to Louise Penny’s latest Three Pines murder mystery A World of Curiosities, it is, though neither is remotely close to having devised the criminal mastermind nemesis plot. Patricia Cornwell has churned out umpteen books pitting Dr. Kay Scarpetta against genius sociopath Carrie Grethen, and we’re only talking about authors who did a good job of using the Moriarty template. Lots of hacks favour it.

Both Thorne and Hendricks — the latter of the tattoos, icky piercings and black clothes — have messed up many relationships, but Thorne is proceeding well with psychologist Dr. Melita Perera, and Hendricks has been with Liam for pretty much personal-best time now.

Then there’s ex Helen Weeks and her son, of whom Thorne is still fond, and his copper buddy DI Nicola Tanner, finally starting to date for the first time since partner Susan was murdered.

Happy bunch, eh?

Could Nicklin be behind the murders in The Murder Book that befuddle our sleuthing crew? A woman goes on a dating app — a euphemism, it’s a site that assumes one should bring along a toothbrush when meeting for coffee — with a disparate series of men, slips them a knockout drug, then does unspeakable and ultimately fatal things to them. She does note gleefully that someone she idolizes is telling her… no, no more clues.

What makes it far, far worse for Thorne and his friends is knowing that while Nicklin is coming for them, he threatens to reveal a secret he can’t possibly know.

In a previous book, it was Tanner who was tortured by a madman who intended to kill her, but she overcame him, handcuffed him to the rad and beat him to death. Thorne suitably sorted the evidence and timeline, and Hendricks fiddled with the autopsy results. Self-defence. But Nicklin knows.

Billingham’s police procedurals are some of the best around, but they’re grim. Make that capital-g Grim. But so good.

Retired Free Press reporter Nick Martin had his own Moriarty, but watched him plummet over the Reichenbach Falls. Can’t possibly survive that, eh?

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