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Bookends: Murder Across the Generations April 28, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Murder Across the Generations

By Dan Davidson

February 29, 2012

Star, March 2/12

– 901 words  –

Piece of My Heart

By Peter Robinson

McClelland & Stewart

468 pages


A Piece of My Heart is the 18th in Peter Robinson’s long running Inspector Banks series, and a bit of a stretch for me. After stumbling across The Summer that Never Was, the 13th book, I reached back to the beginning of the series and have been allowing myself the treat of one or two of these a year, so jumping from book number four to this one is quite a jump. While each of the Banks books do stand alone as mysteries, there are sub-plot arcs that stretch over several novels and I knew I’d missed some key events rather soon in the story.

His brother has died and that became a case. He and Annie Cabot have had the affair that I could see coming and it is over, but they still get along. Something drastic happened to his house and he has just moved back in after repairs and remodeling.  I’m looking forward to reading the books in which these things occur.

I picked this one up while travelling and never did get to it until just recently. The notion of two separate mysteries, set 26 years apart, appealed to me.

In 1969 Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick is seconded to a district outside his regular patch to solve the murder of a young woman, who was found stabbed to death in a sleeping bag in the woods on the edge of the field that had served as the concert venue for the Brimleigh Festival in Yorkshire. Considering that 25,000 people had gathered to listen to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and particularly the local group the Mad Hatters, who were just beginning to make it big, it had been peaceful weekend. The murder, however, was nasty, deliberate, and very hard to investigate given the noise and confusion.

Chadwick is a Second World War Veteran who has a lot of trouble accepting the changes of the late 1960s, particularly since he has a teenage daughter who is prone to going off the rails. The investigation rubs his nose in a whole lot of things he’d really rather not know.

In 2005 it’s a dark and stormy night (really) when Banks and Cabot are called out to investigate the murder of a young music journalist who has come to the Eastvale area in pursuit of a major magazine story on the Mad Hatters, who survived the drug addled withdrawal of their keyboard player and the drowning death of their bassist to become a really famous group over the next 15 years or so.

In both cases in takes some time to find out who the victim is and the lack of that vital piece of information of course blocks any attempt at figuring out a motive, although means and opportunity seem clear enough in the beginning.

The Hatters are the made-up group in the story, sounding like a combination of Fleetwood Mac (the original lineup), Pink Floyd and Pentangle. We meet band members in both eras, before and after their peak years. We meet them and the people around them and chase a lot of red herrings, some of which are created deliberately by the principals in the case.

Obviously in a story like this one, the two cases had to have some bearing on each other and various characters had to have some connection. It’s not bragging to say that I had that part figured out well before it was revealed in the twin tale. I think that was the way Robinson wanted it to go, and that the tension was supposed to come from watching Banks and Cabot figure it out.

Chadwick did solve his part of the case, after a fashion, but was limited by his own biases and the lack of the sort of research facilities that would, a generation later, allow Banks to pull together some information the older man had never been aware of. Not that the villain he nailed for the crime in 1969 didn’t deserve to go to prison; it’s just that he wasn’t guilty of that particular crime.

Who was? Well, the key was in the connection between the victims, Linda Lofthouse and Nick Barber. Nick had figured it out, and digging into it further was what got him killed. Not because of the connection, but because he was digging. In a sense, Lofthouse’s murderer had already been punished and it was that third crime, one which no one knew anything about going into this case, that provided the motive.

I hope I haven’t said too much there. This was a good mystery, with each era providing its own interesting characters and good little cliffhangers to keep you reading. The time periods ran pretty much in alternating order. It might have improved the flow and sense of timing if the 19 chapters had been broken up by time period instead of a mixture of regular scene breaks and dated scene breaks, but I didn’t find this much of a distraction.

Now I need to back up again and read the books that come in between.

Peter Robinson is an expatriate Brit, who has been living in Canada since his university days, having moved here after gaining his first degree in his native England.




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