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FRIEND OF THE DEVIL
By Peter Robinson
William Morrow, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, February, 2008 ($24.95)
Harper; Reprint edition, December 30, 2008 ($7.99) ISBN-10: 0060544384
Reviewed by Larry Jung
Inspector Alan Banks moved from London to escape the crime and violence. He felt London police work was having a bad effect, not only on him, but also on his wife Sandra and their two children. The move to Eastvale in Yorkshire was his attempt at the wholesome mythical country life. Open spaces. Stout men with old fashioned values. A place where people weren't ashamed to get their hands dirty doing an honest day's work. Perhaps Banks might retire and become a gentleman squire.
Only he found the business of murder does as well in the clean country air as in the congested streets of London. In Eastvale murder happens in open fields, country barns, and quaint village streets. The 17th book in the Inspector Alan Banks series opens with two gruesome murders. The body of a pretty 19-year-old woman is discovered literally across the Market square from the Eastvale police headquarters where Inspector Banks works. She has been raped and strangled. Her body is in one of the many small warehouses in what the locals call the Maze. The Maze consists of a labyrinth of alleys called ginnels and snickets that divide up the cramped space into tiny squares, courtyards, nooks, and crannies unchanged since the 18th century.
The call comes in to Banks just as he is settling into a quiet Sunday. He is comfortable in his chair, the music is on, and the toughest thing he has to tackle is calling his mother, this Sunday being Mother's Day. The murder scene reminds Banks of images from films about Jack the Ripper. The gloomy Maze is like Whitechapel. The victim has been posed to hide the rape and strangulation, but the murderer left leather scraps stuffed in her mouth. Banks wishes he had DI Annie Cabot on this case. Despite an affair that ended badly between the two, Banks respects Annie Cabot's skill as an investigator. Unfortunately she is at the moment on detail to another division.
Annie Cabot that Sunday has her own murder to investigate. The crime scene is a wind swept cliff looking out to the sea. Precariously perched on the edge is a dead woman in a wheelchair. She is soaked in her own blood from having her throat cut.
There seems nothing to connect the two murders. The two crime scenes are like night and day: the gloomy ancient labyrinth of the Maze in town in contrast to the cliff overlooking the sea. One victim is a pretty 19-year-old woman; the other is an elderly paralyzed wheelchair bound woman. The former looks like a random act. The latter, the murderer asked for by name at the nursing home.
But the investigations become intertwined when Cabot needs to talk to Banks about a sensational serial murder case they both were involved in six years ago. The key to knowing who would want to kill the woman in the wheelchair is to discover her past. Cabot must overcome her awkward feelings over Banks for the sake of the investigation.
In this latest Inspector Alan Banks novel, FRIEND OF THE DEVIL, Peter Robinson has written a story among the best in this series, which is high praise indeed. There is not a dull or unreadable book in the series. In FRIEND OF THE DEVIL, Robinson ventures into the darkest side of human emotions. He reveals that only the thinnest of line separates us from the sexual predators and serial killers. An older, normally quiet and respectable man would defile an already dead girl out of frustrated lust. A young man preying on older women. A family man with a desirable younger wife goes off for the week with his mistress for S&M.
As with all the previous Inspector Banks stories, the suspense and vivid characters hooked me from the first page and kept my interest to the last page. Like Charles Dickens, Robinson draws from an inexhaustible cast of characters. Even the minor characters are vivid and ring true. For fans of Peter Robinson, FRIEND OF THE DEVIL will not disappoint. It is so good, don't wait for the paperback.
If you haven't read any of the Inspector Banks novels, FRIEND OF THE DEVIL, is a good place to start. You don't have to have read the previous books to appreciate or understand Banks and the setting of Eastvale. Don't be afraid to sample at random the other books in the series. Though Banks develops through each book, each book gracefully fills the reader in on "what has gone before." If you get hooked, you are in luck. All the Inspector Alan Banks novels are currently in print.
The Inspector Alan Banks novels in order of appearance.
Peter Robinson has won the Anthony, Edgar, and Le Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere awards. The Inspector Alan Banks novels have been on both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists.
- GALLOWS VIEW
- A DEDICATED MAN
- A NECESSARY END
- THE HANGING VALLEY
- PAST REASON HATED
- WEDNESDAY CHILD
- FINAL ACCOUNT
- INNOCENT GRAVES
- BLOOD AT THE ROOT
- IN A DRY SEASON
- COLD IS THE GRAVE
- CLOSE TO HOME
- PLAYING WITH FIRE
- STRANGE AFFAIR
- PIECE OF MY HEART
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