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A DEDICATED MAN: An Inspector Banks Mystery
By Peter Robinson
Avon, November, 1999 (Reprint edition) $6.99
Review by Larry Jung
(Originally reviewed in hardcover - 4/91)
In the sleepy village of Swainsdale, a local farmer looking for stray sheep instead finds a man's body. Fifteen miles away, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is playing with his son's electric train waiting for his Sunday dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding only to be called away by the grisly discovery. The body is quickly identified as Harry Steadman, an ex-college professor who has recently moved to Swainsdale. His recent inheritence allowed him to quit his teaching job to devote full-time to his passion for the local ruins and their history.
Except for the fact that the body was killed elsewhere and dumped, Banks has no leads to work with. His investigation of Steadman at first reveals a man who was well-liked. No one seemed to have any motive to do the murdered man any harm. Though none of the regulars Steadman drank with at the local pub have solid alibis for the hours when his head was bashed in, Banks also cannot find anything to single anybody out as a principal suspect.
Banks decides to focus his investigation on learning as much about Harry Steadman as he can. As he digs deeper, Banks realizes that the past might provide the key. There was a summer ten years ago, an idyllic time of youth and discovery that is an important part of the puzzle of Swainsdale and Steadman's murder.
A DEDICATED MAN, the second Detective Chief Inspector Banks mystery, is a quick and entertaining read. The prose is clean and the dialogue "sounds" natural. One of Robinson's strengths is being able to create for the reader a credible rural community with its attitudes, gossip, concerns, and local notables. (Though he does get dangerously close to farce with Major Cartwright.) Robinson seems particularly interested in the youth growing up in rural England. In A DEDICATED MAN as well as the first book in the series GALLOWS VIEW, the lot of a teenager is a major subplot. Both books have an underlying tension between those who yearn for the opportunities of London and those who yearn for the serenity of rural life. This tension is personified in Banks himself. Here is a man who transferred from London to escape the escalating and senseless violence only to find it as bad or worse up north.
Though individual scenes and characters were interesting, the overall story lacked the high level of suspense in GALLOWS VIEW. Nevertheless if you like Bristish police procedurals, you'll like A DEDICATED MAN.
Other titles by this author include: GALLOWS VIEW, A NECESSARY END, THE HANGING VALLEY, PAST REASON HATED, WEDNESDAY'S CHILD, BLOOD AT THE ROOT, FINAL ACCOUNT, INNOCENT GRAVES, IN A DRY SEASON, and NOT SAFE AFTER DARK & OTHER STORIES .
Fans of Peter Robinson may want to visit his website.
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