The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson: a Book Review

There are 20 books in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series (listed at Fantastic Fiction). I’ve read a few of them, completely out of order, but it doesn’t seem to matter too much as each one stands alone, although I suspect I’d get a better idea of Banks’s personal life if I had read them in order!

The Hanging Valley is the fourth one in the series.

Synopsis (from the back cover):

A faceless corpse is discovered in a tranquil, hidden valley below the village of Swainshead. And when Chief Inspector Alan Banks arrives, he finds that no-one is willing to talk. Banks’s frustration only grows when the identity of the body is revealed. For it seems that his latest case may be connected with an unsolved murder in the same area five years ago. Among the silent suspects are the Collier brothers, the wealthiest and most powerful family in Swainsdale. When they start use their influence to slow down the investigation, Inspector Alan Banks finds himself in a race against time…

My view:

As well as the Collier brothers, there are other suspects, including John Fletcher, a taciturn farmer, Sam Greenock and his wife Katy who own the local Bed and Breakfast guest house. There’s something not quite right about Katy, she’s obviously troubled and hiding something, and she is dominated by Sam. As I read on I thought the killer was first one character, then another and never really worked out who it was until quite near the end. I enjoyed the puzzle.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks had been transferred to Eastvale from London two years earlier and is still getting to know the area. He’d moved from London because of the sheer pressure of the job and the growing confrontation between the police and citizens in the capital had got him down. Crime in Eastvale had been slack until this murder happened. And it’s complicated, the locals close ranks and Banks has to work hard to get information, first of all to discover who the victim was and why he had been killed. The trail leads him abroad to Toronto before Banks discovers the truth.

The Hanging Valley is rich in description, both of the Yorkshire Dales and of Toronto. (Peter Robinson was born in Yorkshire and now lives in Toronto.) The hanging valley sounds a beautiful spot, a small, secluded wooded valley with unusual foliage:

… the ash , alders and sycamores … seemed tinged with russet, orange and earth brown. It seemed … like a valley out of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.

… the valley clearly had a magical quality. It was more luxuriant than the surrounding area, its ferns and shrubs more lush and abundant, as if, Neil thought, God had blessed it with a special grace. (page 5)

All of which makes the discovery of the corpse so shocking, with its flesh literally crawling. So, I enjoyed this book on two levels – the mystery and the writing itself. I did think, though, that it could have been shorter and more concise, and some of the characters were rather indistinguishable which is why I rated it 3/5.

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; New edition (8 Nov 2002)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0330491644
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330491648
  • Source: I bought it

About Margaret

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