The Burning Girl by Mark Billingham

‘The Burning Girl’ is the 4th novel in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series.

Twenty years ago, Carol Chamberlain was the lead investigator on a case where a schoolgirl was doused in lighter fluid and set alight. Gordon Rooker confessed to the crime and is still in prison. One of the worst aspects of the crime was that the wrong girl was burned and the target was meant to be the daughter of a gangland boss.

But now Carol is being taunted by a copycat who knows things that were never released to the public. Is Rooker really the guilty man?

In addition to the burnings, there have been a number of killings where the victims have had a large X carved into their backs. The police are pretty sure that they know who is responsible for the killings but the gangs are too careful to leave any proof.

Thorne starts speaking to Gordon Rooker to try to determine if he was really guilty. He also starts to get a bit too personally involved with gang members and those on the periphery of the gangs.

Eventually Carol and Thorne take drastic action to get to the truth. Some of Thorne’s other behaviour is also questionable. Has he crossed a line from being a decent human to being as bad as the criminals he is trying to catch?

Thornes fathers Alzheimer’s is also progressing and Thorne’s obsession with seeking justice for the victims of crime is interfering with his ability to care for his childlike father.


This is not one of my favourite novels of the series so far. The story meandered a bit and a few too many things were left up in the air. There was also far too much police politicking which didn’t really help the story.

Thorne crossed to the wrong side of the line a few too many times in this story and in ways that were unforgiveable. Where can he go from here to redeem himself or is he already facing the consequences? Hopefully we’ll find out in the next novel in the series – ‘Lifeless’.


Book Published 2004


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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