The Killing Habit
A Thom Thorne Thriller
Mark Billingham
Little, Bown & Associates 2018
432 pages

Based on an actual unsolved case of hundreds of cat killings that began in 2104, The Killing Habit is the fifteenth instalment in the Tom Thorne crime series by British author Mark Billingham.

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Initially a case for bad-taste puns around the police department, after fifteen felines have been reported slaughtered, DI Tom Thorne believes that it is only a matter of time before the cat killer escalates to stalking human victims, unless that has already happened.

However, other murders are on the radar.

A junkie suspect is placed in a protective custody rehab. He maintains his innocence. Investigators are on the look out for a chameleon-like woman who seems to effortlessly smuggle illicit substances through the prison system, and it appears that women with one thing in common are being targeted by a serial killer.

DI Nicola Tanner, with whom Thorne has a working history, is investigating an incident in which Adnan Jandali, a desperate refugee and family man is killed. Thorne and Tanner meet frequently to discuss their cases and help each other out.

Enough happens within The Killing Habit to stimulate interest while I was reading, but I found it difficult to return to it after I put it down. I did not enjoy the dual investigations. For me, The Killing Habit came across as disjointed. I felt that splitting the plots detracted from both.

It took a while for the main plot to gain momentum. However, with increased depth, my interest shifted somewhat towards the positive. The last section had the pace and energy that I enjoy in a good crime novel.

The ending was a completely unexpected shocker.

A new reader does not have to have previous experience with Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne thrillers in order to enjoy this one, however, knowledge of the back stories would enhance the experience and help the reader care about the characters and understand the reasons behind what happened in the end. Though likely a must read for Mark Billingham fans, The Killing Habit did not spur me to run out and get another.

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