fredag den 6. marts 2009

Mark Billingham, Den brændende pige (2007)

Britisk thriller, ´hard-boiled mystery´.
Plottet i Billinghams fjerde krimi har tilknytning til en gammel sag om Gordon Rooker, en lejemorder som sætter ild til en helt almindelig skolepige. Det viser sig hurtigt, at han har begået sit livs fejltagelse: for det første var han blevet bestilt til at overfalde en bandeleders datter, for det andet blev han hurtigt pågrebet og idømt en fængselsstraf på tyve år. Ved bogens begyndelse bliver der imidlertid sået tvivl om hele sagen: var det virkelig Rooker som begik forbrydelsen? Hovedplottet drejer sig imidlertid om et bandeopgør mellem nye og gamle grupper i London; en nutidig lejemorder udrydder det ene bandemedlem efter det andet, men inden han dræber dem, snitter han et stort X i kroppen på dem. Sagen eskalerer, og læseren får rig lejlighed til at opleve storbyens værste sider.
Politiet sætter naturligvis et større team på sagen, i det mindste i teorien. I praksis er det i høj grad kriminalkommissær Tom Thorne, som engagerer sig i opklaringen. "Manden var firskåren, i begyndelsen af fyrrerne og var klædt i en slidt, brun læderjakke. Han så væk... og kørte en hånd gennem hår, der var mere grå på den ene side af hovedet end på den anden." Thorne er først i fyrrerne, men render allerede rundt med fysiske og psykiske ar efter et overfald seks måneder tidligere. Thorne er den barske, respektløse og oprørske opdagertype, som tilsyneladende har næsten lige så mange fjender indenfor korpset som i det kriminelle miljø. Hans overordnede beskylder ham for at være den ensomme ulv, enspænderen som meget symbolsk nægter at læse "Håndbog i efterforkning af mord", men er nødt til at følge sagen til dørs for sandheden og retfærdighedens skyld, selv når stationens ledelse beslutter sig for at lukke den.
Thorne viser selvfølgelig også andre sider af sin personlighed. En god ven, patologen Phil Hendricks bor midlertidigt hos Thorne. Hendricks er en piercet og glatraget type, klædt i sort, og vennerne mundhugges omtrent som et gammelt ægtepar, men hygger sig alligevel sammen. Derudover har Thorne en voldsom interesse for country musik som modvægt til jobbet, og den ældgamle, ´klassiske´ BMW, som er et bekosteligt bekendtskab. Til trods for travlhed og engagement i sagen, forsøger Thorne også at forstå og støtte sin Alzheimer-ramte far bedst muligt.
En anden vigtig person i bogen, som muligvis skulle fungere som en slags makker og feminint modstykke til Tom Thorne, er 55-årige Carol Chamberlain, tidligere vicekriminalkommissær og medlem af ´Rynkeholdet´, en gruppe pensionerede betjente, som bliver sat på særlige sager. Hun var involveret i den oprindelige sag om den unge pige, og føler sig stærkt påvirket, da en mand ringer til hende, og påstår det i virkeligheden var ham, som satte ild til pigen. Der bliver bare aldrig tale om noget egentligt samarbejde mellem Thorne og Chamberlain, som virker malplaceret og utilpasset blandt de yngre politifolk, som ikke altid har så meget at lade de barske gangstertyper høre for.Tonen er hårdkogt, og der er et stærkt element af konkurrence og rivaliseren mellem de forskellige afdelinger af frustrerede og vrantne strømere. Det viser sig dog mod slutningen af bogen, at Chamberlain er andet end en bekymret bedstemortype, men det noget bratte skift virker ikke helt overbevisende.
Hvad taler for at kalde denne bog en machokrimi? Det barske miljø, de hårdkogte forbrydelser, de lige så skrappe kriminalbetjente, som sjældent kan få et parforhold til at fungere i længere tid, og et ordentligt læs kulsort humor. På den anden side har Tom Thorne som nævnt også bløde sider, og så er der jo Carol Chamberlain, men det er svært ikke at tænke, at hun netop bliver trukket ind i sagen for at tilføje lidt kvindelig modvægt til alle de barske børster.

Mark Billingham, The Burning Girl (2004)
2009 thriller reading challenge: hard-boiled mystery.
The plot of Billingham´s fourth crime novel is related to an old case about Gordon Rooker, a contract killer who sets fire to an ordinary school girl. It soon turns out that he has made the mistake of his life: not only was he hired to attack the daughter of a gang leader, he is also apprehended immediately and sentenced to twenty years in prison. At the beginning of the story doubt begins to arise as to who actually committed this crime, however.
The main plot centres around warfare between new and old gangs in North London; another contract killer wipes out one gang member after the other, but before killing them he cuts a huge X in their bodies. The case escalates, and the reader has plenty of opportunity to see the worst sides of life in the city.
Obviously the police invest all resources in this case, at least theoretically. In actual practice it seems that Detective Inspector Tom Thorne is the only one who is really involved in solving it. "The man was stocky, in his early forties and wore a battered brown leather jacket. He looked away ... and ran his hand through hair which was greyer on one side than the other." Even at this age, Thorne carries around physical as well as psychological scars after an attack six months earlier. Thorne is the tough, respectless and rebellious detective who apparently has as many enemies within the police force as in the criminal environment. His superiors accuse him of being the lone wolf, the individualist who quite symbolically refuses to read the "Murder Investigation Manual", but also the person who must follow the case through for the sake of truth and justice, even when his superiors decide to close it.
Of course we also see other sides to Thorne´s personality. A good friend, the pathologist Phil Hendricks, is staying in Thorne´s flat. Hendricks is a pierced, bald type dressed in black, and the friends squabble like a married couple in a quite companionable fashion. Other interests of Thorne´s are his fondness for country music and his old ´classic´ BMW which proves to be a costly hobby. In spite of long hours of work and his strong engagement in this case, Thorne also tries to understand and support his Alzheimer-ridden father.
Another important character who might have been envisaged as a kind of partner and feminine counterpart of Tom Thorne is fifty-five-year-old Carol Chamberlain, ex-DCI and member of a Cold Case Squad. She was involved in the original case about the young girl and thus strongly affected when a man calls her, claimimg he was the one who set the girl on fire. Yet there is never any real co-operation between Thorne and Chamberlain who seems out of sorts among the younger police officers. The tone is harsh, and there is a strong element of competition and rivalry among the frustrated and morose coppers. Near the end of the book Chamberlain demonstrates that she is more than a worried granny, but the rather abrupt change is not quite convincing.
So what speaks for calling this crime novel "machokrimi"? The tough environment and the horrible crimes, the equally tough detectives who are rarely able to make a long-term relationship work, and a load of pitch-black humour. On the other hand Tom Thorne has his soft spots, and then there is Carol Chamberlain, but it is hard not to think that she has been pulled into the case to act as a counter-balance to all these ´rogues´.

4 kommentarer:

J. Kaye sagde ...

Love your little sign for the English readers...too cute! You are really making some major progress with this challenge. Love your review! :)

Dorte H sagde ...

Thanks, Kay.
As you may have gathered from my review, I think this book is well-planned and written, but a bit hard-boiled for my taste. Give me a whodunnit set in the country, and I won´t ask for more (at least for a few hours) :)

Sandra sagde ...

I've read all the Tom Thorpe books and enjoyed them all. Interesting review. I do like this character very much. It's good you put the detour sign at the top. When I saw that the review wasn't in English I was going to click away. Thank you.

Dorte H sagde ...

I figured out quite soon that I´d have to have my little signs to make sure I did not turn anyone off :)
In the beginning (3 months ago) my visitors were half Scandinavian & half English-speaking, but today it is probably 60-70 % English-speaking, and the rest are quite international. That is one of the things I really love about blogging.