Crime fiction is one of the old stand-bys for me, when I’m looking for something to read that’s interesting, and a bit brain challenging. The old whodunnit. I enjoyed Agatha Christie’s work and I’ve read a number of others, mainly British. I suppose they must resonate with me.
One writer who has become a ‘must read’ favourite is Peter Robinson, with his long standing series about Alan Banks, a Yorkshire police detective. Like most detective series these days, though the murder is the centre of the plot, the life and times of the detective is an important side affair, and this series is no different. Banks starts as a married detective with two children. Then, as the series rolls on, he has fights with his superiors, his wife leaves him for another man, he’s divorced, hitches up with a female colleague… So we get to know Alan Banks very well.
That’s not what grabs me about Robinson’s stories, though. He has a fine sense of the grey area between justice and the law and quite often, after I’ve finished reading, I find myself thinking… The last novel I read is called Friend of the Devil. It harks back to an earlier Inspector Banks novel which I found difficult to read (because of the subject matter, not the writing) about a couple of sexual predators, a man and a woman, who imprisoned and murdered young girls after torturing them. Think of the two in the Moors Murders and you’ll get the idea. In this book, a quadriplegic woman is murdered. The victim turns out to be a woman involved in the earlier case. She’d been found not guilty of murder and was released, but had suffered a broken neck in an accident which left her unable to do anything for herself.
All sorts of thoughts paraded through my mind. Was she guilty of the earlier crimes? If she was, had she been punished enough? Was it right to murder a crippled woman? etc etc.
The Summer That Never Was is another book that I’ve never forgotten. A drought has reduced the water level in a drowned valley, revealing a town that was abandoned when the local authorities built a dam. A skeleton is found, hidden in one of the buildings. Banks is sent off to investigate that very cold case, dating back to WWII. It’s hard to write something about the ending that is not a spoiler so I’ll urge you to read the book. You’ll find yourself wondering (as I did) how this murder could have been avoided if only…
It’s a rare gift, to be able to write like that – leaving people thinking after they’ve closed the book. It happened to me several times. If you haven’t read Robinson, do yourself a favour.
And just a reminder about the free and cheap books out there for SF and F fans.
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