Number 17 in the Inspector Banks canon, Friend of the Devil, was the first of Robinson’s books that I’d seen as a TV show (terrific) before reading. As a consequence, I read the novel with a sense of knowing the outcome but not being one hundred per cent sure – and that’s the beauty of book to TV translations, they are never quite the same. The book, of course, has far more detail, takes time to unpack scenes and explore characters inner thoughts in a way the TV cannot. So, even though I “knew” the story, there was a sense in which I didn’t and that made reading a double pleasure.
The novel commences with DI Annie Cabbot being called to the vicious death of a wheelchair bound woman by the sea. When she discovers the identity of the woman who is linked to an old and horrific case that first introduced Annie into Bank’s life, the stakes change. This is a high profile case where, it’s felt, justice has at last been served. But that doesn’t change the fact that a murderer has struck and must be brought to justice. At the same time, Banks is called to investigate the murder of a beautiful, clever and popular young woman who is found in an area known as The Maze in Eastvale.
At first, there seems to be nothing in common with the two cases but, as the investigations proceed and both Banks and Annie are forced to think outside the square, commonalities begin to emerge – commonalities that lead them to discover the lies that have kept dark secrets hidden, and that the killer or killers are closer than they thought.
What I love about Robinson’s books, apart from the cases themselves, is that he also delves into and as a consequence develops, the personal lives and friendships between the central characters. Banks and Cabbot have had a rather tumultuous personal relationship and, in this book, it’s no exception with Annie making mistakes, feeling judged (something which she is perfectly capable of doing to herself and far more harshly than those close to her, despite what she thinks) and failing to trust those who only have her best interests at heart. Likewise, Banks doesn’t know how to recapture the friendship he’s enjoyed with Annie nor reconcile the loss he feels now that their intimate relationship has ended.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t directly affect their ability to work together as a team nor acknowledge each other’s strengths just as they accept each other’s weaknesses. Something all the officers do to a greater and lesser degree.
Another fine addition to such a consistently strong and utterly readable series.