There’s something decidedly unsexy about reviewing serial detective fiction.
Each instalment is moulded into an archetypal shape, and designed to incrementally shift forward the lives of its characters. I love the familiarity of these tales; the recognisable framework of their narratives; their recognisable protagonists. But it means I’m so often relying on tired clichés to describe my feelings because — by design — they’re hitting the same notes time and time again. Virtuosically in many cases, without the slightest warble; but the same notes nonetheless.
Which is the case with “Not Dark Yet,” the 27th Alan Banks novel, another stellar entry in Peter Robinson’s long-running series, who is easily one of the most reliable practitioners of crime fiction, and who has been playing a damn fine tune from the same piano for more than 30 years. Here, a seemingly open-and-shut homicide case turns into something far more convoluted — and deadly, with the Albanian Mafia painting a target on Banks’s back.
When DCI Banks and his team — DI Annie Cabbot and DC Gerry Masterson — start rooting through the home of a murdered property developer in Eastvale, they uncover a cache of spy-cam videos on which they find footage of an unidentified young woman being raped. Banks takes on the murder investigation while his partners try to identify the female victim, and Robinson handles these parallel cases with trademark dexterity.
Bank’s inquiries send him on a collision course with Zelda, a sex trade survivor who has found made a new life for herself in Yorkshire with one of the Detective Chief Inspector’s closest friends. Abducted from an orphanage in Moldova when she was a teenager, she’s been assisting the National Crime Agency to demolish sex trafficking rings; but a series of murders with ties to her childhood abusers puts her firmly in the spotlight as a suspect, and Banks must wrangle with his romantic feelings for her, as well as his own interpretation of justice.
The plot might be gnarled, knotted and twisty, but the storytelling is slick and seamless. Peter Robinson is — still! — one of the best crime writers in the business.
Number Of Pages: 352
Published: 18th March 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Peter Robinson’s multilayered twenty-fourth Alan Banks novel is a mystery that depends less on action than on his detectives’ thought processes. Sleeping in the Ground moves gently, but assuredly, Robinson’s unravelling of the novel’s core conundrum done with great care. It’s well-plotted and satisfying right to the end.
Sleeping in the Ground opens with a carefully planned and executed shooting at a wedding in a small Dales church. Superintendent Banks, fresh from attending the funeral of his first love — a recurring thread — leads the manhunt for the killer, who is quickly identified and located. Case closed? Not quite. It all seems a bit too neat and tidy for Banks. Too easy. And when certain discrepancies come to light, Banks and his team are forced to re-work the case from a fresh angle, which seems them investigating a murder from decades ago.
The action flits between series favourites, Banks sharing the spotlight with Annie Cabbot and rookie DC Geraldine Masterson, the narrative shifting into a higher gear as various investigatory threads are tied together. Sleeping in the Ground combines conscientious detection with heartfelt reflections on life and the roads not taken. Pulses won’t pound, but this is an enthralling mystery, and a fine addition to the Banks canon
Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 13-Jul-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
There aren’t too many writers who can make the theft of a tractor riveting reading, but that’s exactly what veteran crime author Peter Robinson has done with the latest Alan Banks mystery. That’s not the only case troubling Banks’ team, however: two local young men have disappeared, and a bloodstain has been discovered at an abandoned World War Two hangar, suggesting a homicide. These seemingly random elements connect: it’s up to the investigators to find out how.
ABATTOIR BLUES is vintage Robinson. It’s a true procedural: its mission is solely to present the reader with a mystery, and hook them into watching it slowly unravel. It is filmic in approach, ready-made for television, for the Law & Order generation, or more aptly perhaps, Midsummer Murders with a darker edge. There’s fleeting character development, though subtle acknowledgements of events from previous novels will keep the fans happy, but ultimately newcomers are just as welcome as veteran readers.
A satisfying whodunnit, then; an enjoyable palette-cleanser before I dig into something more grandiose.