Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

DIE OF SHAME by Mark Billingham: Book Review

The setting–a weekly therapy group for people recovering, or trying to recover, from addictions.  Readers may immediately think of drugs and alcohol, but two members of the group are also suffering from shopping and gambling problems.  Their group leader, a former addict himself, seems to be handling things well, at least until one of the participants is murdered.

Tony De Silva is the leader.  He’s not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but as a former drug addict he certainly has an understanding of the many issues involved in recovery.  His Monday night group consists, at the beginning of the novel, of two women and two men.  Heather, a woman in her thirties, has a gambling and drug problem; Diana, a middle-aged divorcée, is an out-of-control shopaholic and as well as a former alcoholic; Robin is a sixty-something surgeon who nearly got his medical license revoked for performing surgery while under the influence of narcotics; and Chris is a homeless man in his twenties who continues to support his drug habit by homosexual prostitution.

Into this mix comes Caroline, an obese woman who admits to an eating disorder and to becoming hooked on painkillers.  And the group, which has been functioning more or less peacefully, finds that its dynamics have changed, and not for the better.

The novel is told over a period of time by each member of the group, giving the reader an insight into issues that don’t necessarily get aired in the weekly meetings.  Tony, who is a good facilitator, is a former singer/songwriter whose career never took off, something he is constantly reminded of by his wife’s cutting remarks.  The meetings take place on the lower level of their home, while on the upper level their teenage daughter smokes weed almost constantly, coming downstairs for meals which she leaves virtually untouched.

Robin talks about his childhood in South Africa and his friendship with the son of his parents’ servants, a couple who lost their jobs because of a lie young Robin told.  Diana is still fuming over her husband having left her for a much younger woman and her daughter placing the blame for that on Diana.  Heather is nursing a crush on Tony, planning a birthday party for herself in the hope that he, as well as the other group members, will attend.  Chris spends his welfare money on video games in arcades, using the venues as places to meet young boys who will give him a room for the night and perhaps pay for his sexual services.

Although the murder takes place fairly early in the novel, the reader doesn’t know who the victim is until much later.  What we do know is that someone is in prison for a crime and has a visitor who is trying to find out the motive.  But how many murders are there–one or two?

Nicola Tanner is the detective inspector in charge of the case.  Stymied by everyone’s prior agreement to keep confidential what is said in the therapy sessions, Nicola is finding it hard to discover the murderer and the motive for the crime.  Plus she’s having problems at home with her long-time partner Susan, who has an addiction problem of her own.

Die of Shame will having you turning pages compulsively until the end.  There’s a one-two punch in the last two chapters that had me saying “wow” out loud at the end of each one.  Mark Billingham has written a terrific and touching mystery.

You can read more about Mark Billingham at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.