Book Review: A highly addictive plot in new murder mystery

The cover of Die of Shame.
The cover of Die of Shame.

A SMALL group of recovering addicts meet each week at the house of their therapist, and as the book opens they're welcoming a new member. It's hard to say however, whether it's her arrival or the new exercise in shame given to them by their therapist, which sets off a spiral of events culminating in the murder of one of the members.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner is responsible for the murder investigation but finds herself up against the underlying tenet of such groups - protecting members' identities and ensuring their discussions remain confidential.

Nicola slowly tracks down group members and attempts to uncover their secrets, which offers yet another challenge as the former addicts are well versed in the art of deception.

We spend a bit of time with each of the support group members. Not all are particularly likeable, but as we're in their heads, it's almost impossible not to relate to them in some way.

The plot unfolds in two timeframes. In the weeks leading up to the murder, we meet the members and learn a little about their histories and the group's dynamics; and in the present, the group members are coming to terms with the murder and cracks are starting to appear as a result of Nicola's investigation.

Billingham's done a good job of providing some insight into the world of a recovering addict. In some cases every day is a challenge, while others have switched to a new addiction or obsession. And for many, sobriety is an anti-climax as they're still confronted with the same issues that sent their lives spiralling out of control in the first place.

This book offers something a little different. We have a ready-made pool of suspects from the beginning. In fact, they're handed to us (and Nicola) on a platter, but the challenge comes in working out the who and - more importantly as it happens - the why.

Die of Shame is a great standalone novel of suspense by the popular English author.

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham is published by Hachette Australia, RRP $29.99.

Topics:  books review

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