What attracts you to a book first? The cover, the title or the author’s name? Funny enough, it’s never the cover for me… usually it’s the title, and of course, my ‘auto buy’ authors. What attracted me to ‘Cry Baby‘ was definitely the hot pink title. I thought ‘Cry Baby‘ was also such a unique title for a book as well….especially for a thriller.
Did I feel like a Cry Baby after reading this? Let’s see……
What is Cry Baby about?
In the summer of 1996, two boys run from a playground into the adjoining woods, but only one comes out. DS Tom Thorne takes on a case that quickly spirals out of control when two people connected with the missing boy are murdered. As London prepares to host the European Soccer Championships, Thorne fights to keep on top of a baffling investigation while also dealing with the ugly fallout of his broken marriage.
A prequel to Billingham’s acclaimed debut Sleepyhead–which the Times voted “one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade”–this compelling novel highlights the case that shaped the career of one of British crime fiction’s most iconic characters.
Characters and Story line
Tom Thorne is obviously the protagonist of Cry Baby, and already is the feature of a series of books by Mark Billingham. Going into this, knowing that it was a prequel, was a bit daunting….especially when there are already 17 (I think??) books in the series! I couldn’t quite get a feel for Thorne’s character, but I could tell that he was invested and empathetic, which I loved. Also, he is going through a divorce and I feel for him, but obviously it seems his wife was perhaps justified in not being able to stick around. Cheating, not cool though.
We then have Cat and Maria….the mothers of the 2 boys playing in the park that day. Maria was watching the kids when Cat’s son, Kieron, went missing. You can imagine the guilt from that, and the dynamics of the friendship are going to be changed forever after such a life altering moment.
There are then also various other characters, more cops, suspects, exes….there are A LOT of characters in this book, but Mark does a good job of not overwhelming you with all of them.
The book is well written, and the writing style had hints of Karin Slaughter, Michael Robotham, Harlan Coben…. all my favourite authors. I enjoyed Mark’s writing style and the story line is one of my faves….a case involving a missing kid, because I am obsessed with the topic!
Okay, some truth talk… I understand it took place during the European Soccer Championship, but as somebody looking for crime thriller, and not Sports Digest….I found those sections to be really boring and it just added so many pages to the book.
Another thing that I had an issue with is that this book was more focused on connecting the dots for the future of the series, than being invested in the storyline of the actual book. I felt like so much of it was just setting the stage for the series….and the beginning of friendships, of difficult relationships… That being said though, I think that if I had been reading this series already, all those details would have been a ‘oh that’s how that happened!’ kind of moment. So existing fans of the series will enjoy this blast from the past for sure!
The bad guy…or gal…. I kind of saw that coming, and I did feel that the whole premise for why-he/she-dunnit was a bit far fetched. Also the 2nd ‘twist’ left me quite baffled too. I don’t know if that leads to something in the future of one of the other novels…..possibly? All that being said, I still needed to know whodunnit and why!
Existing fans of the Tom Thorne series I think will really enjoy this book….. I also really enjoyed the writing style of this author… I just think the actual story might have suffered due to wanting to get a lot of history cemented into the book. All the side stories were necessary I guess, to speak to that character development…that you’ll probably be seeing in the future. Cry Baby has a Goodreads rating of 4.37 stars out of 5. Without all the soccer and connections to be made, I probably would have given this 4 stars, but it fell just a bit short for me and I’d say I’m sitting at around 3.5 – 3.75 stars. I definitely will try to pick up some of the other Tom Thorne books, because I feel like I’ll really enjoy them now that I know a little bit of backstory about the characters.
Disclaimer: Cry Baby was sent to my Jonathan Ball Publishers in exchange for an honest review.