A Necessary End is no. 3 in the Inspector Banks series and as far as the others go (I am reading them out of order which is not a problem), it lacks the tight pacing of both the two previous books and later ones.
Commencing with an anti-nuclear demonstration in which a policeman is killed, Banks finds himself playing second-fiddle to an aggressive Superindent brought down from London. This man, Burgess, has a reputation for results only, it’s how he gets them that has Banks questioning not simply the man’s ethics and treatment of various suspects, but his inability to be anything but myopic about the case.
Involving a sort of hippy pseudo-family on a nearby farm, may of whom have tragedy and secrets in their past, and some left- wing ideologues, the novel is a study of character more than it is crime. Having said that, I found the character of Burgess to be unbelievable. For someone who has risen through the ranks and supposedly earned the respect of his colleagues, he’s a misogynistic, narrow-minded bully who’s inability to join the dots would make a pre-schooler blush. He was very cliched and, in that regard, unusual for Robinson. Burgess does, however, function as a foil for Banks, highlighting the hero’s intellect, moral compass and compassion, but I think he could have been more subtley drawn – he is quite vaudevillian! The crime itself is also fairly pedestrian and I think the resolution owes more to happy coincidences and is too reliant on ex-machina to really ring true. What is lovely about this book is the language and the poignant descriptions of loss, longing and the countryside.
Overall, a good read, but not up there with the best. Gave it three out of five.