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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Book Review: Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson

This most recent and terrific installment in the Inspector Banks series begins when the body of a disgraced academic is found beneath a bridge in a remote area outside Eastvale. Found with five thousand pounds in his pocket and significant pre-mortem injuries, it becomes clear this isn’t a suicide – but who would want to kill this emaciated, alcoholic and sad individuChildren of the Revolution by Peter Robinsonal? Once Banks and his team begin to delve into the man’s past and the anarchy decades of last century, they discover that not only does he have skeletons in his closet but that some of these are shared with significant individuals who would do anything to ensure that what the academic knows is never shared. So begins a case that tests Banks, Annie, Winsome and the newest team member to the limits of their skills and professionalism.
Never one to mind allowing the lines between the professional and personal to cross (but without ever sacrificing his duty), Banks finds this case testing in all sorts of ways. What I love about the way Robinson has allowed Banks’ character to develop is regular readers know and appreciate the ethics and values which govern Banks’ every decision. This is a man who believes in justice and will see it served, even if it means breaking the rules, but without diverting from his moral compass. In this novel, Banks’s subordinates, particularly Winsome, demonstrate their talents, Winsome displaying compassion and growth as a detective. We see how influential Banks has been as a mentor and role model for his team and how the faith he puts in others is usually always rewarded. At the same time, we see Annie struggling with the injuries – physical and psychological – that she sustained on a previous case. If there is one niggle about this novel, there is a sense in which Annie’s story is shunted to one side a little. She serves little purpose except as a contrast to the other female officers and the way they deal with suspects and witnesses alike. Mind you, I love her directness and acerbic wit, as well as her tendency to act first, think later, traits that usually serve her well though there is one scene where, I feel, she acts a wee bit out of character. Only a little, but the scene didn’t ring quite true.

Overall, this is a great read and I felt sad that the R question (retirement) has been flung at Banks  who, in this novel, is also forced to ponder aging and his mortality as well as his career. I hope he takes the other option he is given because a reading world without Banks would be a poorer one indeed.

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