Tag Archives: Peter Robinson

Review: Bad Boy by Peter Robinson

22nd August 2010

A bad boy is unreliable, and sometimes he doesn’t show up at all, or if he does, he’s late and moody; he acts mean to you, and he leaves early. He always seems to have another iron in the fire, somewhere else to be…. it’s exquisite agony … He goes to bed with your best friend, and still you forgive him, still you want him.

Thank heavens I was never into bad boys. Because you’ve got two types: the moody, slightly-depressed version and the really, really bad dangerous ones. In Peter Robinson’s newest book, Bad Boy, out Tuesday, August 24, DCI Banks’s daughter, Tracy aka Francesca, has fallen for the latter. Tracy lives with her best friend from childhood, Erin, in a posh part of Leeds. They drink a lot and do a little drugs. Tracy’s career hasn’t taken off as she planned; she didn’t get the best marks in school, and she feels overshadowed by the success of her brother Brian’s band. In short, she’s feeling pretty damn sorry for herself. One night at a club, intoxicated, Tracy kisses Erin’s boyfriend Jaff. Erin and Jaff have a big blowup later that night, and Erin goes to her parents’ house, taking something from Jaff that doesn’t belong to her, something Jaff desperately needs to have in his possession.

Meanwhile, Banks is in absentia. His last case has left him with horrific images; his latest love affair is over; his career is in tatters. He is in California, following in the footsteps of Sam Spade, the fictional detective in The Maltese Falcon. Back at home, Juliet Doyle, Erin’s mother, walks into the station asking to see DCI Banks. DI Annie Cabbot takes her into Banks’s office and draws the situation out of the woman. Apparently, the Doyle family were neighbors to Banks, and Ms. Doyle has come to him for help: Erin has a gun. In the UK, possession of a handgun is a serious offense, and the police begin crawling all over the Doyle’s home as well as the house Erin and Tracy share. Tracy, sensing trouble, runs to Jaff, and the two take off for her father’s cottage in Gratly. Tracy is excited and feels she is on an adventure; however, once Jaff discovers she is the daughter of a DCI, Tracy’s life is in danger.

This book is not a traditional mystery. There’s no major whodunit. We know whodunit; what we don’t know is how it will all end. In this sense, I felt Bad Boy was a turning point in the series as well as in Alan Banks’ life, forcing everything into focus. In the desert, Banks finds a little of what he’s been searching for:

For so long he seemed to have been struggling in the dark, and in that desert night, when the motel’s blinking red neon was nothing but a dot on the horizon, he found an epiphany of a kind. But it was nothing momentous. No road to Damascus, no lightning strike of revelation or enlightenment, as he had hoped for….The epiphany, when it came, was nothing more than a simple fleeting ripple of happiness that went through him as a light cool breeze might brush one’s skin on a hot day….He remembered thinking he was a long, long way from home, but, oddly enough, he didn’t feel so far away at that moment.

When he goes home to find chaos, it seems that moment is what allows him to hold firm. Literally exhausted, he delves into the darkness of the dales to find Jaff, a cold, narcissistic character if I’ve ever seen one. Paced more like a thriller than anything else, Bad Boy is also grittier than any of the Banks mysteries up to this point. It’s messy.

Tracy, who has always been a minor character, comes to the foreground here, but I wasn’t glad about it. She pissed me off royally. I try not to be judgmental, generally, but I’m pretty judgmental about stupidity. Tracy made one stupid move after another, and a lot of it was pretty unbelievable. However, I’ve also never taken drugs, and I am not sure how much that ups the “stupid factor.” When Tracy initially runs to Jaff, I thought, ok. There are several points after that, though, where major sirens would have sounded in my head.

Another troubling aspect of the book was PC Nerys Powell. She’s a newbie to the series. Part of the arms squad, Powell forms an unlikely allegiance to DI Cabbot, and her actions throughout the novel are questioned because she is a known lesbian. The quick (one-way) bond seemed a bit forced and too convenient for some of the later plot developments as did the reemergence of Dirty Dick Burgess. I can handle one rogue figure. Two? I don’t know.

As always, Peter Robinson wrote an enjoyable book, and though I appreciate his attempt to allow the series to mature, I missed his typical writing style, typified by In a Dry Season. With the ending of this book, I am curious as to where Robinson plans on taking Banks and Cabbot and how much longer Banks will keep pounding the pavement. Are you planning on getting this newest addition? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it pre or post reading!

*Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Harper Collins for my first ARC.

Review: In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson

17th August 2010

As I sat there remembering, time went by …. Then a full moon rose, scattering its bone-white light, in which I fancied I could see clear through the water to the village that used to be there, like an image preserved in water glass. There it was, spread out below me, darkly glittering and shimmering under the barely perceptible rippling of the surface

As I stared, I began to feel that I could reach out and touch it. It was like the wold beyond the mirror in Cocteau’s Orpheus. When you reach out and touch the glass, it turns to water and you can plunge through it into the Underworld.

Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season revolves around Hobb’s End, a Yorkshire village flooded and turned into a reservoir in the early 1950s. In a particularly hot summer, the reservoir dries up, and a young boy playing in the detritus discovers a body buried under an outbuilding. DCI Alan Banks is on the outs with his boss Jimmy Riddle and is given the case as punishment. Riddle should know better as Banks sinks his teeth into the decades-old case, determined to find the killer if he or she is still alive.

Robinson interweaves the present with Banks’ marriage and career in tatters with a country in similar plight: 1940s Hobb’s End, complete with blackout curtains, RAF dances, rationing, death, and suffering. Gwen Shackleton, the shopkeeper’s daughter, cares for her ailing mother and minds the shop. One day, Gloria comes into the store, and Gwen the quiet, bookish girl compares Gloria’s eyes to Hardy’s novel A Pair of Blue Eyes. When Gloria asks for cigarettes out of the store’s ration, Gwen tells her no.

I was lying, of course. We did have cigarettes, but what small supply we had we kept under the counter for our registered customers. We certainly didn’t go selling them to strange and beautiful land girls with eyes out of Thomas Hardy novels.

Gloria is enigmatic – loved and hated for her beauty. Gwen’s brother walks in, and their fortuitous meeting forever links Gwen and Gloria, through war, through loss, and through love.

I find Robinson to be at his best when he melds two storylines from different time periods, both inside the minds of the victim/victim’s family and friends as well as the detective seeking justice for these people. The scenes of Yorkshire during World War II were really interesting; the quiet desperation amid a hopeful, fearful people was heartbreaking.

Banks is a quiet detective. If you’ve had no exposure to him before, he likes his Laphroaig, but he likes it with a side of opera. He’s flawed but fascinating with a deep sense of right and wrong, whether right and wrong is inside police procedural or not. In a Dry Season is one of his best, and I’m looking forward to reviewing his newest book for LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer group.

If you have never read any Robinson, I urge you to look him up (as well as Ian Rankin). If you’ve read any Robinson, what are your favorites? Have you read this particular novel? Are you looking forward to his latest?