Saturday, September 15, 2007


Mark Billingham's first crime novel Sleepyhead was published in 2001. Featuring London-based detective Tom Thorne, it was an instant bestseller in the UK. The second novel in the Thorne series, Scaredy Cat was published in July 2002 and was followed by Lazybones, The Burning Girl, Lifeless and Buried. The newest Tom Thorne novel Death Message was published in the UK in August 2007.

Billingham applied the Page 69 Test to Buried and reported the following:
This is a tricky one. Page 69 of the US edition or the UK? Hardback or paperback? Maybe I should just go for the Latvian edition and admit that I haven’t the first idea whether that page is representative or not. Always good to have tough decisions to make. Anything to put off starting a new book. In the end … it’s the US hardback edition of Buried. As luck would have it, it’s only half a page…

It’s actually the start of Chapter Five and sees some of the investigating officers visiting the school attended by the kidnapped boy Luke Mullen. As it turns out, another boy at the school will prove central to a very different case. The book is, on one level, about how dangerous it can be to make assumptions. The school, Butler’s Hall, is private and expensive and it leads many officers to draw conclusions as to the character of the children and their parents, which will prove to be a terrible, and potentially fatal mistake.

“It’s a fair bet that if you can afford to send your kids here, you can afford to cough up a decent ransom,” Parsons said. “These kids might as well have targets on their backs.”

“Wouldn’t be allowed,” Holland said, lifting the brochure. “There’s a very strict uniform code.”

Parsons looked back towards the school. “There’s a very strict everything code…”

Buried is the sixth Tom Thorne novel and was probably the trickiest to write in terms of its subject matter. The police have been very helpful in the past when it came to writing about murder. Kidnapping though, is a subject about which they were very tight-lipped. It’s a crime they take even more seriously than homicide and with good reason. In a kidnap case, there is still a human life at stake. It’s this life, and the possibility of saving it, that drives Thorne throughout Buried. Of course, there are murders in the book, but the victims in Buried are not necessarily the ones you might have expected them to be…
Download the first chapter of Buried and read more about the book.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue