When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson

27213195The latest in the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson, When the Music’s Over is a wonderful read. Tightly plotted, beautifully paced and without sacrificing character or the poetry of his prose, Robinson places the newly promoted Superintendent Banks on a specially assigned task force to investigate a cold case that has the potentially to erupt into a media storm. Drawing on recent cases of shocking and prolonged child sex abuse by well-known celebrities such as Jimmy Savile, and Rolf Harris, Robinson invents a character who is hideous in the extreme and indifferent to the pain and anguish he has caused over many, many years. When a dubious Banks is introduced to one of the famous perpetrator’s victims, 40 years after the (alleged) crime, he finds, much to his surprise, a credible witness. Believing her and wanting to see justice done, Banks pursues a case that at first seems hopeless, but gradually reveals a trail of horror.

In the meantime, Annie Cabot is assigned to a case where a young girl has been brutally murdered and her body left naked in a field. This case tests Annie and her team as it takes her to a small English town where racial tensions and the potential for violence to erupt with one wrong word or accusation simmers.

This is a terrific installment in a consistently strong and thrilling series. As usual, Robinson deploys music as a metaphor for much of the action and the emotions that are aroused as the cases progress and interpersonal and professional relationships are tested and explored and this book is no exception. Only, this time, he includes poetry as well and it’s beautifully done.

The novel also revisits the past and a time where life seemed less complex and is often constructed as a more innocent period. Robinson pays homage to nostalgia while at the same time revealing it to be a cruel furphy – mostly because he forces us to peel off the rose-colored glasses.

A great read – gripping, fast-paced and with the capacity to make you hold your breath as the desperate race to see justice served is run. Bring on the next Banks, please!

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Book Review: Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

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 Friend Of The Devil by Peter Robinson– 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.

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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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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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