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Bookends; When the end of the case is just the beginning October 16, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends; When the end of the case is just the beginning

By Dan DavidsonAftermath

February 4, 2014

– 942 words –



By Peter Robinson

464 pages

McClelland & Stewart



My latest visit to the world of Inspector Banks begins where a lot of mysteries end. Banks has been in charge of a task force investigating a rash of serial killings. Teenage girls have been vanishing without a trace. When a neighbour, Maggie Forrest, hears signs of domestic violence at the house of Terry and Lucy Payne and calls the police, two officers arrive to find the wife unconscious and bleeding in the hallway and the husband, armed with a machete, hiding in the basement, ready to defend his secret cache of murdered teenagers.

One officer is killed in the fray and the other, Janet Taylor, successfully defends herself – a little too successfully, as it turns out. There are consequences.

No, I haven’t given you any spoilers; this is where the book starts. Well, not quite, there is a prologue that won’t actually make sense to you until quite a ways into the story.

So – the mystery is solved, sort of. It turns out that there are even more girls than anyone actually knew about. It turns out that there are other puzzles tangential to this set of crimes. It turns out that there have been some mistaken assumptions and all sorts of personal complications in the lives of the principal characters. It turns out that the aftermath of the discovery is just the beginning of the story.

Robinson writes mystery novels set in Eastvale, a fictional community not too far from the Yorkshire city of Leeds, where he grew up. He lives in Canada, though and this book was, he admits, somewhat influenced by the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homulka killings in Ontario, as well as a set of similar killings that happened in the UK. In an essay, Robinson admits to having had trouble writing this book, which he began working on some five years before he finished it.

It was going to be about Maggie, the Canadian woman in chapter one who is in England in hiding from her abusive ex-husband. Originally, it was going to be set in Toronto, but that felt too close to the scene of the real crime, so he moved it to the UK. At this point it was still Maggie’s story and it just wasn’t working. It wasn’t working so thoroughly that five other books got written and published while he was trying to figure this one out.

The late L.R. “Bunny” Wright, a British Columbia mystery writer, had the same problem when she was working on what became the first of her Sunshine Coast mysteries. When I interviewed her some 22 years ago she said she solved the problem by having a detective walk into the story. It was the beginning of the successful Karl Alberg series that spawned eight more novels and two in a successor series before she died in 2001.

Robinson writes that he did the same thing. He already had 12 Alan Banks novels under his belt and hadn’t intended this to be another one, but having Banks walk into the book solved all the problems he’d been having with its creation.

Reading that while doing some research for this review (yes, I do that) made me understand why there was so much about Maggie Forrest in this book. He had hundreds of pages of back-story already in his head when the time came to rewrite the book into a Banks’ mystery. I’m not complaining. It all fits in nicely and gave him the opportunity to score some telling points about peoples’ motives and the nasty British press.

There are continuing story arcs in the Banks series. In the beginning he was a married man, but like just about every other Detective Chief Inspector in British mystery fiction (the two DCI Barnabys in the Midsommer Murders TV series seem to be the exception) the marriage didn’t last. He has two grown children. The son is a moderately successful rock musician and the daughter is still in his life. His former wife plans to remarry and the big emotional hit for Banks in this novel is that she is pregnant with her new mate’s child.

Banks has not been celibate since the break-up. He has an occassional relationship with benefits with fellow officer Annie Cabot, who plays a significant role in this novel and in his emotional life. She is tasked to investigate the actions of Janet Taylor, to determine if she used excessive force in subduing Payne.

Also significant is the role of psychologist and profiler Jenny Fuller, who is tasked with developing background information on both of the Paynes, in order to assess what role each of them may have played in the murders. Lucy claims to have known nothing and to have been completely under Terry’s thumb, but Banks finds that hard to believe. Fuller would like to have a relationship with Banks, but so far hasn’t taken that step.

One of the disappearances in the book turns out to be totally unrelated to the main case, and is a fascinating red herring all by itself. As did Wright, Robinson has learned to write detective stories where the relationships among the characters are as interesting as the murder plots.

I’ve bounced around in this series and have read books on both sides of this one. There’s plenty of police procedural material in all of them, but the later books do seem to delve more into the personalities. They’ve all been good, however, and this one was no exception.





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