Peter Robinson

Alan Banks - Detective Chief Inspector, Yorkshire, England


"Friend of the Devil"

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky MAY 7, 2008)

"There are some kinds of damage that take you far beyond normal rules and systems of ethics and morality — beyond this point be monsters, as the ancient used to say."

Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson's Friend of the Devil is in some ways a continuation of Aftermath (published in 2001), since the author picks up key threads from his earlier book and incorporates them into his new thriller. The chilling opening scene sets the stage for the horrors that are to come: A homicide victim sits in a wheelchair near the edge of a cliff while a flock of seagulls wheels around her. Investigating the crime is forty-year old Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, the former lover of Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks of Yorkshire. After an intense affair, Cabbot and Banks have drifted apart, although they still work together professionally.

DCI Banks, who is in his fifties, has mellowed a great deal. He no longer smokes and although he still enjoys alcohol, he no longer drinks quite as much as he did in his younger days. After work, he can usually be found at home sipping a fine wine, listening to one of the music CD's that make up part of his large and eclectic collection, reading, or watching a movie. One leisurely Sunday morning, Banks receives a phone call informing him that the body of a scantily clad nineteen-year old girl who had been brutally assaulted was found in an area of Eastvale known as The Maze. This challenging case will take many twists and turns and will require skill, hard work, and infinite patience to resolve.

Meanwhile, DI Cabbot is horrified at her own erratic behavior of late. She wakes up one morning next to a young man in his twenties whom she vaguely remembers picking up in a club. She apparently spent a night of drunken and pot-fueled revelry with this stranger before ending up in his bed. She realizes that she been hitting the bottle hard during the last few months and is justifiably worried that she may be gradually losing control over her actions. Now that she is on loan to Eastern Area headquarters, she throws herself into solving the "Wheelchair Murder." Why would someone take a paralyzed woman to the edge of a cliff and slit her throat?

Nothing is as it seems on the surface and inevitably, Banks and Cabot team up when their investigations intersect. The tentacles of the distant past prove to be far-reaching. Only by understanding a series of long-ago events can the detectives hope to solve the mysteries that baffle them now. Back in 2001, in my review of Peter Robinson's Aftermath, I wrote: "With brilliant psychological insight, an unerring ear for dialogue, clever plotting and compassion for the human condition, Robinson has written a breathtaking novel of suspense." These words apply equally well to Friend of the Devil. Robinson's descriptive writing has never been better, his intense story is engrossing and beautifully constructed, and he depicts his large cast of characters with an eye for the telling detail.

Banks may be older and wiser, but he is as passionate about his job as he ever was. Annie is teetering on the brink of disaster and would probably go over the edge if she were not so devoted to her career. Also worth noting are Detective Constable Winsome Jackman, a proud black woman with high moral standards; Detective Superintendant Catherine Gervaise, Banks' demanding and aggressive boss; the insensitive Detective Sergeant Kevin Templeton, a loose cannon who has never been a team player; and two psychopaths who cover their tracks so well that they prove to be formidable adversaries. The powerful, exciting, and surprising conclusion will leave readers impatient for the next installment. Friend of the Devl is a deliciously complex, finely textured, and harrowing look at the walking wounded among us who suffer the terrible and long-lasting aftereffects of physical and psychological trauma.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 39 reviews

Read an excerpt from Friend of the Devil at author's website

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"Strange Affair"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie JUN 4, 2006)

Strange Affair by Peter Robinson

Although Strange Affair is Peter Robinson’s fifteenth Inspector Banks novel, it is my introduction to the extremely human, complex man and law enforcement professional who is Alan Banks. I wonder where he has been all of my life since he is just my type...of character, that is. I prefer my men/friends, in real life, to be less disturbed - and in this novel Banks is coming out of a deep psychological depression. He has become "withdrawn and taciturn," with little energy for work or social life.

Apparently, in the previous book, Playing With Fire, (which I just ordered), Banks' idyllic cottage in the Yorkshire Dales, as well as all of his possessions, were burned to the ground by an arsonist, including his extensive CD collection. It's a well known fact amongst Banks aficionados that he is a music lover of some discrimination. Banks was home at the time the crime was committed, sleeping. If his ex-lover and colleague DI Annie Cabbott, along with DC Winsome Jackman had not pulled him from the flames, I would not be reviewing Strange Affair. Banks is presently living in a rented flat near the remnants of his home, supervising its reconstruction and convalescing.

This excellent police procedural/mystery opens with the murder of a young woman, Jennifer Clewes, on a stretch of dark country road. She had been run off the Yorkshire highway and shot, once, in the head. In the last few months there had been two other incidents where young women were driven off the road and murdered, although they had both been brutally raped and strangled, not shot. What IS most unusual about this case is that Ms. Clewes had a piece of paper in the back pocket of her jeans with Inspector Banks' name and address on it. DI Cabbott is troubled by this and tries to contact Banks, to no avail.

That's because the good Inspector is prowling around London trying to find his younger brother Roy. The two had never been close, even as children. As a matter of fact, Banks thinks Roy is a shady character with few scruples. The evening Jennifer Clewes was killed, Roy Banks had made a rare phone call to his brother and had sounded frightened, as if he were in trouble. He had not been seen or heard from since the call. Suddenly Alan begins to take an interest in the details of his brother's life and learns his sibling is not as one-dimensional as he thought.

As Annie and Alan pursue their separate investigations, (really fascinating stuff), Jennifer's murder and Roy's disappearance seem to be connected. The storyline alternates between Banks in London and Cabbot's, et. al. investigation(s) in the dales. While much of the novel involves solving the crimes, there is also a lot of discussion about the past - Banks relationship with Annie, their intricate personalities, how their individual lives have changed in recent months...and years. As I wrote above, I have not read any of the other books in the series but was not at a loss for information. As a matter of fact, about a third of the way through, I felt that the characters were old friends.

By the way, Strange Affair is a song title by Richard Thompson, a British singer-songwriter that Banks hears at the beginning of the story and it keeps running through his mind:

"This is a strange affair
The time has come to travel but the road is filled with fear
This is a strange affair
My youth has all been wasted and I'm bent and grey with years
And all my companions are taken away
And who will provide for me against my dying day?
I took my own provision but it threw me and wasted away
This is a strange, this is a strange affair."

What can I say? His brother is missing...before he got a chance to really know him, he lost his CDs and he is depressed...but things do improve. I really enjoyed this book, the writing style, the plots, subplots, characters.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 36 reviews

Read an excerpt from Strange Affair at HarperCollins.com

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"Close to Home"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer JAN 29, 2003)

"Trevor had been working for well over two hours when he thought he saw something sticking out of the dirt.

Leaning forward from his seat and rubbing the condensation from the inside window of the cab, he squinted to see what it was, and when he saw it, it took his breath away. He was looking at a human skull, and what was worse was that it seemed to be looking right back at him."

Close to Home by Peter Robinson

Guilt is often a huge motivator. And Inspector Alan Banks, rightly or not, feels guilty. He's decided to take a vacation in Greece, hoping to come to terms with his ex-wife getting remarried and having a baby and his own recent break up with Detective Inspector (DI) DI Anne Cabbott. When he reads in the newspaper that the recently found bones of a young boy have been positively identified as belonging to a boy he went to school with, he knows he has to go back to England and tell what he knows. As a young man, he was attacked shortly before his friend's disappearance. He didn't tell anyone, mostly because he managed to escape, he was playing where he wasn't supposed to be and he was skipping school...keeping his mouth shut would keep him out of trouble. Unfortunately, he has always blamed himself for Graham Marshall's disappearance...if he'd spoken up, perhaps the man would have been caught before he could hurt someone else. When another boy in a neighboring police jurisdiction disappears, it is uncertain whether he will find himself exonerated, or condemned by others.

In some ways, this book is really three stories. The first is that it's a bit of biography. We get to see a lot of Bank's personal life, his childhood as he explored the places where he grew up and the scene where he was attacked. This is the 13th Inspector Banks novel and so seeing more about this Inspector's past will be a treat for readers who've enjoyed Banks in the past. The two mysteries are not really Bank's case, although he helps as much as he can, and is instrumental in unraveling them both. Detective Inspector Anne Cabbott is hunting for the missing boy, DI Michelle Hart is tracking down the clues to discover what really happened to Graham Marshal. For a long time both cases seem their own entities, for what can a recent kidnapping have to do with a body that's been buried for well over a decade? Robinson deftly juggles these stories, making some compelling parallels and contrasts that keep the book flowing well. Anne makes a mistake that may well have cost Luke his life, while a killer has broken into Michelle's house, leaving the sliced up dress of her dead little girl on her bed as a warning. These details define and humanize the two female characters as they both struggle to prove their competence and their courage against an enemy that seems to have no motive.

The threading of the three stories and the interrelationship between the three characters really shines. Accompanied by an almost audible soundtrack of music reflecting the author's diverse tastes, it twists the story into different directions giving the reader a constantly changing and intriguing perspective.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews


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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Inspector Banks Series:

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About the Author:

Peter RobinsonPeter Robinson was born in 1950 and grew up in Yorkshire, England. After getting his B.A. Honours Degree in English Literature at the University of Leeds, he went to Canada and first took his M.A. in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, with Joyce Carol Oates as his tutor, then a Ph.D. in English at York University.

His first novel, Gallows View (1987), introduced Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. It was short-listed for a best first novel award in Canada and for the John Creasey Award in the U.K. Most all of his previous novels have been nominated for many awards. No Past Reason Hated, Cure for Love, and Innocent Graves each won the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for best novel. In a Dry Season was nominated for the Arthur Ellis and Edgar awards and won the Anthony Award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book. His most recent Inspector Banks novel, Aftermath, was an international bestseller.

Peter lives in Toronto with his wife, Sheila Halladay, and enjoys music, walking, reading, travel, good food and good wine. He has also been known to down a pint of beer now and then.

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