The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

‘The Bones Beneath’ is the 12th instalment in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series and this book is set mostly on a remote island off the coast of Wales – Bardsey Island or Ynys Enlli in Welsh. I immediately recognised the name Ynys Enlli from my medieval reading as the burial place of saints (thanks to Ellis Peters and ‘The Pilgrim of Hate’ and various books about King Arthur).

At the end of the previous novel in the series ‘The Dying Hours’, Inspector Tom Thorne is given a choice that will enable him to regain his detective rank. Now we find out what the choice is. Years ago (in the second book in the series ‘Scaredy Cat’) Thorne managed to put away the devious serial killer Stuart Nicklin. Now Nicklin is willing to show where he buried one of his earliest victims, but only to the man who captured him – Tom Thorne, and only if he can bring along his new friend and fellow inmate Jeff Bachelor.

From the beginning it is obvious that Nicklin has a secret plan. He and Bachelor are well escorted by prison officers along with Thorne, his colleague Dave Holland and a number of crime scene officers. The authorities think there is enough manpower to keep Nicklin in check. But, Nicklin has been planning this event for years. He knows the island having lived there as a young offender and he knows that the island is isolated and difficult to access.

The tension builds through most of the book until Nicklin starts to carry out his devious plan.

In parallel with the events of Nicklin, Thorne and the island, there is a kidnapping. It seems so unrelated that I forgot about it most of the time. It is near the end of the book that the link between the two events is revealed.


This was an excellent book and quite different since the focus was not on solving a crime. I loved the location. The feeling of isolation was apparent throughout the book although I didn’t have the feeling of mysticism that I would have expected from a place of such historic significance as Ynys Enlli.

I wish that I’d read this series in order and I’m keen to go back to the beginning and in particular to read ‘Scaredy Cat’ where Stuart Nicklin is first introduced.


Book Published 2014


See a full list of books by Mark Billingham

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Filed under Billingham, Mark, Book Reviews, Crime, Detective, Series Fiction, Thriller

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