My Friday Post

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City
Reader
 where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’ve recently finished reading Gallows View by Peter Robinson, the first Inspector Banks book and have decided to read the series in the order they were written. The second Inspector Banks book is A Dedicated Man. A Dedicated Man

When the sun rose high enough to clear the slate roofs on the other side of the street, it crept through a chink in Sally Lumb’s curtain and lit on a strand of gold blonde hair that curled over her cheek. She was dreaming.

This opening doesn’t tell me much about the book. If I didn’t know it’s an Inspector Banks book I’d probably not bother reading much further. But reading the blurb encourages me to read on:

Blurb:

Near the village of Helmthorpe, Swainsdale, the body of a well-liked local historian is found half-buried under a dry stone wall. Harry Steadman has been brutally murdered. But who would want to kill such a thoughtful, dedicated man?

Chief Inspector Alan Banks is called in to investigate and soon discovers that disturbing secrets lie behind the apparently bucolic facade. It is clear that young Sally Lumb, locked in her lover’s arms on the night of the murder, knows more than she is letting on. And her knowledge could lead to danger . . .

Also every Friday Freda at Freda’s Voice hosts The Friday 56

Friday 56

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. (If you have to improvise, that’s ok.)
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

From Page 56:

‘He was a fine man, good-tempered, even-natured. He had a sharp mind – and a tongue to match when it came to it – but he was a good man; he never hurt a soul, and I can’t think why anyone would want to kill him.’

‘Somebody obviously felt differently,’ Banks said. ‘I hear he inherited a lot of money.’

I’m pleased that page 56 provides information about the man in the title and provides an answer to the question of why anyone would want to kill such a good man. I haven’t read much more of the book so I’m still in the dark about the motive – was the man really killed for his money?

What do you think? Would you continue reading?

 

Gallows View by Peter Robinson

Gallows View: DCI Banks (Inspector Banks 1)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first Inspector Banks bookGallows View by Peter Robinson* (see below). I’ve read some of the later Banks books, totally out of order, which doesn’t seem to matter as I think they work well as stand alone books.

Inspector Alan Banks has been in Eastvale in the Yorkshire Dales for six months, having relocated from London. He has now got used to the slower pace of life and is working well with his colleagues. Sandra, his wife, has also settled well in Eastvale, making friends with Harriet and joining the local photography club.

There’s a peeping tom in the area, targeting young, blonde women, following them as they leave the pub and then watching as they undress for bed and there is also spate of break-ins by two balaclava-wearing thugs who rob old ladies and vandalize their homes. It’s clear quite early in the book that the two thugs are teenagers, Trevor Sharp and his friend, Mick Webster, who progress from robbing old ladies to burgling more prosperous homes when their owners are away from home, guided by Mick’s older brother, Lenny.

The main mystery is that of Alice Matlock, an old woman, living on her own, who is is found dead in her ransacked house in Gallows View, a row of old terraced  cottages. Her body was discovered by her friend, Ethel Carstairs, lying on her back, having fractured her skull on the corner of a table while falling backwards – or had she been pushed? Was she also a victim of Trevor and Mick, could it have been the peeping tom, or was someone else responsible? It might have just been an accident – she was old and her bones were brittle.

Dr Jenny Fuller, a psychologist at York University, has been brought in to help by providing a profile for the peeping tom case. Banks, a happily married man, is immediately attracted to her. They work well together, although Sandra, his wife, is rather suspicious at first about their relationship when she discovers that Dr Fuller is a young, attractive redhead.

It’s a good start to the series, which has now reached 24 books. It has quite a relaxed pace, with a complex and well constructed plot. The characters are convincing and realistic, and I like Banks, a hard working dedicated detective who gets on well with his boss, Superintendent Gristhorpe, who likes to build dry stone walls in his spare time.

As well as the crimes Robinson also explores a number of other issues – for example, feminism and gender, and education, comparing comprehensives and grammar schools. One thing that really dates it is the frequent mention of smoking in pubs!

As with other detective novels that have since been adapted for TV there are differences from the books. Peter Robinson explains on his website he has no power in the TV universe, and he thinks of the Banks books and the TV series as parallel universes. The characters are clearly meant to be different versions of the same person; they look different, have different personalities and meet different fates in different worlds.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 826 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Reprints edition (21 Aug. 2009)
  • Source: I bought the e-book
  • My Rating: 4*

Gallows View is a book I’ve owned for over 2 years, so it qualifies for Bev’s Mount TBR Challenge.

*Peter Robinson later wrote a novella, Like A Virgin published in a short story collection, The Price of Love, which is about his last case in London just before he moved to Yorkshire.

Dry Bones That Dream by Peter Robinson: Book Notes

I read Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks books set in the Yorkshire Dales, every now and then, so I’m reading them totally out of order. It doesn’t seem to matter. Dry Bones That Dream is the 7th book in the series and the cover of my copy shows  Stephen Tompkinson as Banks. I don’t remember seeing this one on ITV, but I probably did as I see from the list of episodes in Wikipedia that it was broadcast in 2012.

Dry Bones That Dream was first published in the UK in 1995 and in the US later in as Final Account.

Summary from Peter Robinson’s website:

One May evening, two masked gunmen tie up Alison Rothwell and her mother, take Keith Rothwell, a local accountant, to the garage of his isolated Yorkshire Dales farmhouse, and blow his head off with a shotgun. Why? This is the question Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks has to ask as he sifts through Rothwell’s life. Rothwell was generally known in the area as a mild-mannered, dull sort of person, but even a cursory investigation raises more questions than answers. When Banks’s old sparring partner, DS Richard “Dirty Dick” Burgess, turns up from the Yard, the case takes yet another unexpected twist, and Banks finds himself racing against time as the killers seem to be dogging his footsteps. Only after he pits his job against his sense of justice does he discover the truth. And the truth leads him to one of the most difficult decisions of his career.

My Thoughts:

I read this quite quickly, even though it’s just over 350 pages, in between mammoth gardening sessions (more about that later maybe). It really centres around identity and unearthing the secrets the characters have kept hidden from their family and friends. There’s also money-laundering and international and political shenanigans involved.

Much of the book revolves around Banks and his relationships, with family, colleagues and the people he interviews in connection with Keith Rothwell. Banks seems to be at a pivotal moment in his personal life. As usual with the DCI Banks books  we are told what music Banks listens to which got a bit monotonous for me and the descriptions of what each character looked like and the clothes they were wearing didn’t add anything to the plot. I did have an inkling about the truth about Rothwell’s murder but thought I was being too fanciful and that it was an unlikely scenario – it wasn’t. But I did enjoy reading it anyway even with these drawbacks.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter R

This week I’ve chosen Peter Robinson‘s Bad Boy to illustrate the letter R in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet.

Bad Boy is Peter Robinson’s 19th book in his Inspector Banks series, but I don’t think you have to have read the previous 18 because it functions OK as a stand-alone, as quite a lot of the back-story is included.

Description from the back cover:

Banks isn’t back, and that’s the problem.

If DCI Alan Banks had been in his office when his old neighbour came calling, perhaps it would have turned out differently.

Perhaps an innocent man would still be alive.

And perhaps Banks’s daughter wouldn’t be on the run with a wanted man.

But Banks is on holiday, blissfully unaware of the terrible chain of events set in motion by the discovery of a loaded gun in a young woman’s bedroom, and his daughter’s involvement with the ultimate bad boy . . .

My thoughts:

There’s not much more for me to write about this book. I didn’t think it was as interesting as the earlier ones of his that I’ve read. For one thing there’s not much of a mystery for Banks to solve and for another I didn’t like the graphic descriptions of violence it contains. It’s a police procedural to a certain extent, except of course, that Banks doesn’t actually always follow the set procedures.

Banks does come back from his holiday, down to earth with a vengeance as he sets out to rescue Tracy, his daughter from the wanted man, Jaff, the ‘bad boy’.

DI Annie Cabot obligingly gives a definition of a ‘bad boy’:

A bad boy is unreliable, and sometimes he doesn’t show up at all, or if he does, he’s late and moody, he acts mean to you and he leaves early. He always has another fire in the iron, somewhere else to be. But always while you’re waiting for him you can’t really concentrate on anything else, and you have at least one eye on the door in case he’s the next one to walk in the room, even though you might be seeing someone else, and when you’re with him your heart starts to beat a little faster and your breath catches in your chest. (page 163)

As for Banks, there are some interesting insights into his personality. He realises that he is ‘a stranger‘ to happiness, and that he has a restless nature which precluded happiness. If he wasn’t restless he either felt a vague sadness which was occasionally punctured with anger or irritation. He also realises that he hadn’t been a good parent, but he had felt inadequate and awkward with Tracy as she was growing up, not knowing how to communicate with her.

But, Banks is on the side of law and order, despite not always sticking to procedure:

If there was one part of the job Banks hated more than any other, it was that feeling of impotence and ineffectiveness he often felt by having dedicating himself to upholding the law, following the rules. He cut corners from time to time, like everyone, had occasionally acted rashly and even, perhaps, illegally, but on the whole, he was on the side of the virtuous and the good. (page 322)

And are there hints at the end about Banks’s future? He says he is ‘getting a bit tired of it all, to be honest.’ Do I sense that Peter Robinson is getting a bit tired of Banks too?

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; 1st edition (28 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340836970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340836972
  • Source: Library book
  • My Rating: 3/5

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