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The Burning Girl
ISBN 0060745274 / 9780060745271 / 0-06-074527-4
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A contract killer is carving his way through North London's criminal underworld, leaving a bloody X on his victims' backs and taking Billy Ryan's gang down one thug at a time. Detective Inspector Tom Thorne and his team know there's a turf war going on, but who's attempting to take over Ryan's racket isn't quite clear. When DCI Carol Chamberlin comes out of retirement to work on the cold case squad and asks Thorne for help solving an old murder, the past and present catch up in what looks like a continuation of a twenty-year-old gang war. And when someone carves an X in Thorne's door, a fuse is lit that stretches from the eponymous burning girl of the title--Chamberlin's old case--to the gang war that's lighting up the London sky. It's a clunky plot that relies on telling more than showing, slowing down the pace and makeing it difficult for the reader to care about any of the principals involved--either the victims or those who seek justic for them. Billingham has written better thrillers (Lazybones, Scaredy Cat), but this one doesn't live up to their promises. --Jane Adams [via]