Cover Image: Cry Baby

Cry Baby

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Member Reviews

I'm a fan of Mark Billingham and Detective Tom Thorne. I read the sixteenth in the series (Their Little Secret) last year and assumed this would pick up where it left off. In fact, I didn't read the backcover blurb at all before I started the book and found it a little strange that the series was set in the past and I didn't remember that being the case.

I knew I disliked his partner or girlfriend and was relieved she seemed to be moving on; and here Tom's separated from his wife. So it made sense but it didn't. And, as it happens, there's nothing in the book until the very end that references that this is a flashback of sorts*. It meant that I read the book amidst some puzzlement worrying that my memory was even worse than it is and that I'd just not remembered the books were set in the 1990s.

Of course as a police procedural this is a great read and I enjoyed Thorne's antagonistic relationship with his boss though once I realised we'd leapt back in time I struggled to remember if any of these players were part of the current series. I almost feel as if I need to do some re-reading to make sure there's nothing I've missed in the then and now! Of course none of that is Billingham's fault, just mine for having a bad memory and reading too much bloody crime fiction!

This is obviously a whodunnit. So, there's a focus on the police investigation itself, but it actually offers something a bit more. In crime fiction we often spend time with the perpetrator but here it's less about the person responsible for 7yr old Keiron's disappearance and their motivations, and more about the lives of those left behind. It's about the secrets they've kept, the roles those secrets have played in current events and their responses. Billingham has been quite clever here placing us not only with Tom but also with the mothers of the two boys playing when one went missing. It means the narrative goes deeper than that of the mystery of a missing child, but touches on friendships, how we perceive others and the assumptions we make.

** Well, that, the backcover blurb and all of the publicity material! *grimace*
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It could be a scene from anywhere… a couple of young mothers—good friends—taking their kids to play in a neighborhood park. The women kick back on a bench in the shade to chat, while their little boys climb on the jungle gym, swoosh down the slides, and burn off excess energy as only a couple of active seven-year-olds can. 
When one of the women heads off to the restrooms, the other decides to sneak a quick cigarette—she’s been trying to quit, but isn’t there, yet—which requires rooting around in the depths of her handbag for the elusive lighter. It’s only once she’s finally lit up and taken that first drag, that she notices the children are nowhere in sight… but then she hears them, faintly, in the woods bordering the park on one side, and relaxes; they’ll soon tire of the trees and come tearing across the playground again. 

The first mom returns, upset enough to find her friend smoking… but far more so when she doesn’t see the boys. Waving off the other’s explanations, she runs over to the woods, shouting for them. After a couple of moments, a rustling among the fallen leaves signals the boys are on their way back. Only one boy—bawling his head off—emerges from the trees, though… and that boy isn’t her son.

It could be a crime from anywhere… but this time, it’s in London, in 1996, and it’s down to a troubled young detective—DS Tom Thorne—already weighted down with personal problems aplenty, to bring the missing lad home, in Mark Billingham’s newest, Cry Baby.

We’ve seen a lot of Tom Thorne over the years (beginning with the  superb Sleepyhead in 2001), but we’ve never seen this exact Tom… just thirty-five years old, in the middle of a very messy divorce, and haunted by an old case in which his own error in judgment played a part in the deaths of three little girls. This Tom isn’t as sure of himself, of his co-workers, of his job, or of life, in general… but he is sure of one thing: that he’ll do anything to solve this case.
Will history repeat itself, though, or will Tom find a way to make up for a past mistake… that is the question.

As a long-time reader of Billingham’s Thorne series, it was an unexpected pleasure to travel back in time in Cry Baby, and observe Tom as—not a newbie, exactly, but certainly as a man in over his head, just trying not to crack from the pressures pounding at him from all sides. (His first meeting and subsequent getting-to-know-you interactions with pathologist pal Phil Hendricks are a real treat.)

In typical Billingham style, all of the major (and some of the minor) players are given enough space to breathe and feel alive to us, rather than merely serving as names on a page to whom stuff happens. 

My only complaint, to be honest, is the sheer amount of time devoted to soccer, which, maybe if you’re a big soccer fan… and you rabidly followed the sport in 1996 (or are a soccer-stats nerd)… would be of interest to you? (Eventually, I had to just skim through all those paragraphs and pages discussing scores and players and plays and rivalries and… yeah. Meh.)

Overall, though, this is Billingham—and Thorne, et al—in fine form, and an easy recommendation for all fans of the series.
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MARK Billingham made his name with a trio of gritty, black-humoured serial-killer novels that introduced Tom Thorne: Sleepyhead, Lazybones and Scaredy Cat. 
Now, for his 25th book featuring the maverick detective, former stand-up comedian Billingham takes us back before those three cases, when Thorne was a lowlier officer on the police hierarchy.
Back in the 1990s we find Thorne is already haunted, by a case where he failed to follow up on a hunch about a suspect, and found four bodies a few days later.
So, will he dare use his famous instinct – which will come in so useful throughout his career – when trying to find out who has kidnapped a little boy from a wood.
This time he has several suspects, but in true Billingham style there are red herrings, and even if you guess the criminal's identity there's more to it than you think, and well-thought-out twists that blindside you.
The set-up is one that has featured so often on crime and psychological thrillers over the past few years: the disappearance of a boy and the effects on his family.
But this is Mark Billingham, and we get a story with more layers, more surprises, and more grip than the usual crime novel.
There's the dad, a banged-up gangster with vengeance on his mind; the creepy guys who could be involved including a witness and the boy's teacher; the friends with their own secrets; and the killer who starts bumping off people involved in the case.  
Billingham throws in many satisfying little things for fans: references to pre-millennial technology and fashions, and especially Thorne's first few meetings with his best mate, the tattooed coroner Hendricks.
But really, this is a story that's about the story and the characters - both given depth, but surprising, but both believable. One of Thorne's best novels of recent years.
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The prequel to the Tom Thorne novels.

Great to read his back story and another brilliant and gripping book from Mark Billingham.

Great read
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4.5 stars.

  A prequel to the first novel in the Tom Thorne series, Cry Baby by Mark Billingham is a suspense-laden mystery about a missing seven year old boy.

  Catrin “Cat” Coyne and Maria Ashton are with their sons at a playground when, during a moment of distraction, Cat’s son Kieron goes missing.  He and Maria’s son Josh are playing hide and seek in the wood when Josh realizes something has happened to his friend.

  Detective Sergeant Tom Thorne and his boss Detective Inspector Gordon Boyle are part of the team assigned to investigate Kieron’s disappearance. After a fruitless search,  everyone fears the worst. But when eyewitness Felix Barratt provides important information, Thorne and the rest of the team now believe the young boy was abducted. But without any new leads, will they find Kieron before it is too late?

  In 1996, Thorne is on his way to a divorce but he does not feel any urgency to start proceedings or put the house on the market.  Kieron’s case provide a true but handy excuse as his soon to be ex-wife Jan and her new boyfriend pressure him to follow through with his promises. Thorne instead works long hours trying to find any evidence that will assist in the search for Kieron.

  After a chat with Cat, Tom crosses paths with her neighbor Grantleigh Figgis.  With their discussion about his whereabouts the morning Kieron complete, Thorne cannot shake off the feeling Figgis needs a closer look.  DI Boyle is quickly convinced Grantleigh is a viable suspect and the situation quickly escalates out of Tom’s control.  Will evidence prove DI Boyle’s certainty that Figgis is their man?

  Meanwhile Cat has information that she initially held back from the police.  Despite Thorne’s assertion what she tells him will remain confidential, everyone, including her partner Billy who is in prison, knows exactly what Cat divulged. Luckily, Billy’s sister Angela is there to support her while the search for Kieron continues.

  Maria still feels guilty about taking her eye off the boys that fateful day in the park. But she is soon distracted by Josh’s increasingly troubling behavior both at home and school.  Maria puts it down to her recent divorce and Kieron’s disappearance.  Will her ex-husband Ashton agree to get counseling for their son?

  Cry Baby is a tension-filled mystery that is fast-paced and engaging.  The plot is refreshingly unique since the story takes place in the summer of 1996. Due to the lack of modern day technology, Thorne and the rest of the investigators rely on old fashioned detective work as they search for Kieron.  With a shocking plot twist, Mark Billingham brings this riveting mystery to an edge of the seat, dramatic conclusion. Old and new fans are sure to love this outstanding prequel (and seventeenth installment) to the Tom Thorne series.
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It's 1996 and two young boys playing at the park run into the woods, Only one boy returns. At first, it's assumed the one boy is just lost ... but later it is was determined to be abduction when a witness comes forward and reports seeing a man holding the hand of a young boy and then getting into a car.

Thorne has his hands full ... investigating an abduction without any clues, dealing with an almost ex-wife and her new boyfriend.

When two people die who knew the two boys and their mothers, it becomes more than baffling.

This is a real nail-biting page turner with suspense starting from the first and not stopping until the very last page. Suspects are many ... varied .. some who are keeping secrets. The ending was unexpected and I enjoyed Thorne's memory of that time in his life.

This is a prequel to Mark Billingham’s acclaimed debut Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne, Bk 1) .. a time when crimes were solved without smart phones, and phone triangulation, social media and street cameras on every corner.

Many thanks to the author / Grove Atlantic / Netgalley / Edelweiss for the digital copy of this historical crime fiction. Read and reviewed voluntarily, opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
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Excellent! I loved finding out where it all started with Tom Thorne. This is essentially a missing persons case with a young boy apparently being kidnapped whilst playing with his friend. What plays out next is a story of dodgy relationships, unsympathetic characters and twisted revenge - fantastic! I think this book works well as a prequel to the Tom Thorne books and has made me want to go back to the beginning and reread them all. Tom meeting pathologist Phil Hendricks as well as an insight into his early family life was a gem! So much going on in this story and as it all fits together expertly as facts unfold. Set during Euro 96, although I am not a football fan, it did help to portray the time period.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book! 
It was a bit different from Mark Billingham's previous books because this book went back to the beginning in 1996. The research was very well done and everything was very authentic down to the soccer players who were big in those years! 
There were two good twists at the end that I did not see coming! 

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion
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Lovely to go back t Tom Thorne's early days. I'm a big fan of this series and this was a great edition to it. A missing boy brings back difficult memories for Tom as he races against time to find him. We are treated to memories of Euro 96 (painful ones!) and the highlight for me was meeting Phil for the first time. A real treat for fans.
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Genius. Mark Billingham can do little wrong in my eyes anyway but the way he manages to introduce a new case from the perspective of a much younger Tom Thorne is very clever. It will not spoil anything for a reader new to the series to know that 25 years on Thorne is still as irreverent as he was as a young detective. I loved the interactions between Tom and Brigstocke as contemporaries and it was great to see how Thorne and Hendricks got to know one another.

The disappearance of a child always leaves the reader avidly turning the pages with their heart in their mouth and this was no exception. There is a secondary crime however and it was the identity of the perpetrator of this that left me breathless. Can't wait for Thorne's next appearance, Johnny Cash records at the ready.
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It's the first book I read in this series and won't surely be the last as I thoroughly enjoyed.
The historical setting is vivid and realistic, the characters are well thought and interesting, the solid mystery kept me hooked.
I can't wait to read the other books in this series.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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So, surprisingly, this is my first Mark Billingham book. Not sure why I have never picked one up before, but I have already purchased the first 4 in this series and have become a firm fan.

While this is part of a series, it is a prequel and I did not have any issue with it as a standalone novel.

I loved the 1996 setting and all of the memories/nostalgia that came with that. Thorne is a great character and I thoroughly enjoyed his relationships with other characters.

The plot is simple, child goes missing from a park, but the plotting itself is anything but simple. Just when you think you have guessed what is happening, you second guess yourself, then third guess yourself! So many twists and turns and it is very very clever.

The only thing that knocked it to 4.5 stars, rather than 5, for me was that when we found out what had happened to Kieron, the missing boy, the motive was a little vague.

A thoroughly enjoyable crime novel and I am delighted that there are loads more for me still to read! 

Thank you to Grove Atlantic, Netgalley and the author for this eARC.
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I have previously read some of the books by Mark Billingham, mainly the first 5/6 of the Thorne series, and this book is a prequel to the series. This was good in that it re-introduced me to the characters that I had previously read about.

The basic story is about the investigation into a missing child set during the mid 90’s. It was interesting to read some of the historical elements, as I had context for remembering some of it as well and this brought the memories of that time back. There are also some amusing nods to people around at the time, and this comedy comes out well thanks to the authors standup comedy background.

I thought this story was engaging and thoroughly enjoyed following it through the twists (that from this reviewers perspective, didn’t see coming) to the very end. Would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a detective story set in the UK, and for this novel especially, doesn’t rely on the wizardry of modern day crime solving.

This review is based on a free digital ARC copy provided by NetGalley. My views are provided based on the book content only.
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A retrospective mystery starring the very well known protagonist Tom Thorne- very human DI with a lot of loose ends and vulnerability, crushed down ruthlessly by our old fashioned hero!
This was a thoroughly good read, the best from this author in a while. The time referencing was spot on and the non pc behaviours believable. A thoroughly good read.
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The year is 1996 and London is getting ready to host the  European Soccer Championships. Two great friends from vastly different backgrounds Cat and Maria meet to take their boys to the park. While Cat slips off to the rest room, Maria decides to have a cigarette, though she has tried to stop, starts day dreaming instead of watching the boys. A nightmare unfolds when the boys wander into the woods. One comes out and one disappears .
DS Thomas Thorne takes on the case. A great gripping suspense story. Thorne has to deal with inadequate supervisors, leaks to the media, two murders linked to suspects and his own personal issues. An unfaithful wife and her somewhat younger sandal clad lover, hovering parents that seem to fault him for the marital strife and growing frustration over the case as days go by without concrete leads.
Apparently Thorne is an ongoing character in author Mark Billinghams books and this one makes me want to read them all.
Great story!

I was provided an electronic Advanced Readers Copy by Netgalley for my unbiased review. The above review is my honest review and not influenced in any way.
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I’d like to thank Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read ‘Cry Baby’ by Mark Billingham in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

The year is 1996 and England is hosting the European football championships.  Two boys, Kieron and Josh, are with their mothers as they play in the woods at Highgate and as they play hide-and-seek Kieron disappears.  His mother Cat is distraught while Josh’s mother Maria blames herself for briefly taking her eye off them.  As DS Tom Thorne investigates the two men at the top of his list of suspects are murdered, but as the weeks pass by Tom is no closer to finding what’s happened to the boy.    

‘Cry Baby’ is an action-packed thriller with unexpected twists and turns, drama, suspense, a number of possible suspects and an exciting ending.  I’ve read and enjoyed every one of the books in the DS Tom Thorne series and although it’s been a bit strange going back to the start of Thorne’s police career this latest novel is a worthy addition to the series.  The last chapters as they drive through Hertfordshire are especially interesting to me as I know the places mentioned very well having lived there for many years.  I like Billingham’s style of writing and the amusing dialogue between characters, especially with DCI Boyle and Phil Hendricks, gives the story an added depth.
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Cry Baby is the perfect prequel to send us back to revel in Tom Thorne's twenty years. As if we needed reminding how good Mark Billingham is., Val McDermid

Tom Thorne is one of the most credible and engaging heroes in contemporary crime fiction. Mark Billingham is a master of psychology, plotting and the contemporary scene - making the Thorne novels the complete package. Twenty years in and better than ever.,
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A prequel to sleepyhead set in 1996. Prequels seem to be the literary fad of the moment with a lot of authors doing them, and I’m not overly keen on the concept. 
So how did Cry Baby work for me. The actual story is excellent, Mark Billinghams books are a consistently great read. 
The intro is a bit gory, I’m never one to shy away from a bit of gore so no problem there. 
I felt sorry for Figgis, he was the character that I engaged with most. 
It was good seeing a young Tom who is focused and driven being prepared to go out on a limb to do the right thing and seeing the young Hendricks with his amazing deductions and very different look to your usual pathologists. 
What I wasn’t so keen on was the chosen ‘wrapping’ and presentation for the story with it being presented as a dream. Too Dallas for me. 
So that affects my rating. 4* for this one.
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Two boys playing in the park, mums chatting, relaxed, happy, carefree. The lull before the storm, the quiet before everything changed, before they all became public property in a way none could have imagined. Two boys, best friends, dressed distinctively so they were easy to spot, two mums, best friends, so different but so alike, four people for whom 1996 would change everything, forever. 

DS Tom Thorne knew it would be a difficult case, missing kids always were, but no one could have predicted just how bad it would get or how much he'd want to punch his boss's light out. Added to everything going on at work he has an ex-wife who wants him out of their old home, a football championships to watch, and parents to visit. It could be a very long summer. 

This is such a fun book. Not something I usually think after finishing a Mark Billingham book but it is. Not the crime or its aftermath, that is as gritty, as shocking, as always but the fact it is set in 1996. All the memories, the asides, the lack of so many things we take for granted, both good and bad, was a joy to read. Add to that the fact I had no idea whodunanyofit until it was revealed when it all seemed so right and there is no doubt this is a first class, stay up late, must read, prequel of the highest quality. 

I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an unbiased review and would recommend it unreservedly. If you love Tom Thorne read it, if you have no idea who Tom Thorne is, read it and then continue into his world of first class storytelling.
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This one's different! I've been following Mark Billingham since his first official visit to New Zealand (the Auckland Writers' Festival), where he shared the podium with two other authors and joked that with that many people in the audience, we could all go up and hold the presentation in his hotel room. I fell in love with his humour right then and promptly bought "Sleepyhead" and all those that came after. I don't regret it.


The plot of "Cry Baby", written two decades after "Sleepyhead", actually predates it. Don't let it be the first Tom Thorne book you read, because you'll deprive yourself of the little "aha" moments when Tom meets Phil Hendricks for the first time, or walks away from his future flat in Kentish Town, or visits his parents. "Cry Baby" is a throwback to the times when people didn't carry cell phones and there was no CCTV footage to do the police legwork - and it's also a throwback to a younger, less cynical, Tom.

Of course, if you don't want to commit to reading 16 Tom Thorne books before "Cry Baby", go right ahead. It can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.
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