The Last Dance by Mark Billingham – review

Published by Sphere

Publication date – 25 May 2023

Source – review copy

Meet Detective Miller: unique, unconventional, and criminally underestimated…

He’s a detective, a dancer, he has no respect for authority ­- and he’s the best hope Blackpool has for keeping criminals off the streets. Meet Detective Declan Miller.

A double murder in a seaside hotel sees a grieving Miller return to work to solve what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. Just why were two completely unconnected men taken out?

Despite a somewhat dubious relationship with both reality and his new partner, can the eccentric, offbeat Miller find answers where his colleagues have found only an impossible puzzle?

Two men are found shot dead in hotel rooms in Blackpool. One is the son of a gangland boss, the other an IT consultant. The pair appear not to have any connection to each other so how did they end up dead in rooms next to each other? That’s what DS Declan Miller has to find out.

I’ve not read a Thorne book for a few years but from what I can remember they are dark, gritty reads, that draw the reader in and take them to places they are glad to eventually leave. This new series, in contrast, is light, shot through with humour but again draws the reader in.

Suave, sophisticated, refined. If that’s what you are looking for in a detective then Miller is not for you. He’s sarcastic, slobbish and uncouth and all the more wonderful for it. DS Declan Miller is returning to work after bereavement leave. His form of defence, a barrage of jokes, one liners and pre-emptive take downs. He wants to appear normal, so goes to the extremes of making fun first, before anything series can begin. He returns to a new boss, who he doesn’t get on with, a new partner and a new murder, or murders to investigate.

His new partner, DS Sara Xiu, is unsure of his methods, unsure of his jokes and unsure of how she should respond to him. She soon learns that although his techniques are perhaps unusual, they are successful. She comes to realise that Miller’s joking is his best line of attack and defence. It lulls people into misjudging him, and how clever he actually is.   Miller uses his humour as a shield, as his defining characteristic and becomes a little perturbed when he realise Xiu doesn’t always get his humour. It allows for moments of self-reflection followed by a doubling of effort to get her onside. He even lets her in on his secret, that he loves to ballroom dance.

I had worked out the murderer from very early on in the story but that didn’t stop me enjoying it. I loved watching the various threads come together and seeing how the pair worked through the evidence and clues to come to the dénouement. The  case doesn’t seem to make sense and Miller has to work through twists and turns, only watching his step when it comes to his paso doble.

There are a whole host of great characters who will hopefully reappear in future books.  From Miller’s new boss DI Sullivan, who doesn’t appreciate Miller’s jokes, to the gangland bosses Wayne Cutler who is likely to give you a pair of concrete boots if you upset him, to Ralph Massey, ballroom owner and former drag queen, who will also give you concrete boots but make them sparkly. Miller’s dance friends are all keen to offer help in his investigations, whilst encouraging him to step back out onto the dance floor.

The Last Dance is a hugely entertaining start to what I hope is a long series. More entertaining than the two pence slot machines and a stick of rock. Funny, enjoyable and a joy to read. I loved it. I’m already tapping my feet waiting for the next one.


You can buy a copy of the book here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may earn a small amount should you purchase through it. You can also buy a copy of The Last Dance from your local independent bookshop.)

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sounds like a book I’d enjoy Janet 🙂


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