Book Review: In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson

This is a fabulous novel that really stretches both the crime genre and the reader’s knowledge of the wonderful central character, Alan Banks. It is my favourite Inspector Banks novel to date (though I haven’t read them in order and thoroughly enjoyed gaining so much of Banks’ back story and discovering elements of his private life). This novel opens when a villIn A Dry Season by Peter Robinsonage that has lain beneath a reservoir for decades, Hobbs End,  is exposed after a particularly dry season. Keen to explore the rotting ruins, a teenager stumbles upon some human bones. Banks, who has been assigned a desk job after falling into disfavor with his miserable and despicable boss, Jimmy Riddle, is sent to deal with what’s ostensibly a boring cold case. Also assigned is the young and feisty Annie Cabbot, another square peg in a constabulary round hole. Sparks fly when Banks and Cabbot meet and they start to learn the secrets the water has kept hidden for so long. suddenly, the cut and dry case from World War II becomes very interesting indeed.
Segueing between the present and the village Hobbs End pre its immersion, during World War II and the Americans presence at a nearby air base, and modern times and the investigation led by Banks, this is a terrific tale with rich and interesting characters in whom you invest. As the contemporary murder investigation unfolds, so too the older story unfurls from a kind of innocence and a desperate desire to start again to tragedy. Replete with marvellous historical details, from food, war rules and conditions, fashions, social and religious mores and cultural attitudes (and or course, the music – this is a Robinson story after all) the novel also explores Banks’ growing feelings for Annie, trying to deal with his divorce from Sandra, living alone again and the unexpected change in direction of his son, Brian.

As the novel builds towards the climax, the two main threads collide with surprising and very satisfying results. If you enjoy the Banks’ books, good crime novels or just a great read, then this is a book you’ll find hard to put down.

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Book Review: Piece of my Heart by Peter Robinson

This engrossing novel commences in 1969, when a lovely young, free-spirited woman is found dead in a sleeping bag after a huge music concert and the suspects range from concert attendees to the musicians themselves.

Fast forward to the Twenty-First Century and Banks is called to investigate the quite brutal murder of a music journalist, Nick Barber,  in a small village. Not only is the motive for his death unclear, so are the reasons for Barber’s presence in an unremarkable part of the UK. The list of suspects slowly grows but is unsatisfactory as while there are motives for murder, they aren’t realPiece Of My Heart (Inspector Banks, #16)ly enough to sustain a murder charge. Puzzled and intrigued, Banks knows there is a mystery attached to this man and his death, a feeling confirmed when a page of numbers, some circled, is found scrawled in the back of a novel Barber purchased. But what do they mean? Are they even important?
Segueing between 1969, the era of free love, hippies and counter-culture and current times, two unrelated crimes, two different types of investigations, are explored and the plot literally thickens. The further Banks is drawn into the sometimes seedy world of famous rock stars, the more perplexing the case becomes but it’s not until Banks and his team begin to look into the past that not only do answers begin to emerge, but painful memories that some will do anything to repress also erupt…

This is a terrific Banks installment. Not only does Robinson evocatively explore the late 60s with musical references, clothing, ideology, living conditions and generational differences through the older case, in both the past and present he manages to intertwine the personal and professional imbuing the novel with layers that are at once exciting and touching. Add to that Banks and Annie Cabot dealing with an ambitious boss, and Winsome with an unpleasant sycophantic peer and the story fires on so many levels.

Intricately plotted, it’s evident that Robinson painstakingly researched this book to give accurate dates and times for which to connect his fictitious scenarios with real world events, giving the story additional verisimilitude. It is also fascinating to contrast the policing styles of the late 60s and the science available to that of present times. Also compared are two fathers who raise/are raising children within different social and cultural contexts and the challenges they face understanding and relating to their kids.

Thoroughly enjoyed this Banks book. Clever, well-written and tightly plotted, A Piece of My Heart works as a crime novel but also as a time capsule of a bygone era.  My only niggle is that for all the effort Robinson put into writing a wonderful, gripping story, the kindle version I read had so many errors – typos, punctuation, syntactical, it was incredible. I have never read a professionally published work so littered with mistakes and it was really annoying. You pay for quality – even in electronic form – and expect it. I think Robinson has been let down in this regard. Fortunately, the story is so good, it didn’t detract (too much) from my reading pleasure.

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