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