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Archive for the ‘Peter Robinson’ Category

As Detective Inspector John Rebus, retired, talks to his medical examiner girlfriend, Deborah Quant, over dinner in the Caledonian Hotel restaurant, he recalls the murder there, over thirty years ago, of a young woman, Maria Turquand. The killer was never caught. With nothing but time on his hands, Rebus decides to investigate the case, imploring his former coworker, Siobhan Clarke to  bring him the cold case files.

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The day after Rebus chats with police officer, Robert Chatham, who years previously spearheaded a review of the case when new evidence was introduced, said Officer Chatham’s dead body was found washed up on shore, Rebus surmises it has something to do with his cold case.

How this cold case can be made to intersect with Clarke’s new assault and battery case perpetrated against known gangster Darryl Christie, only an experienced mystery writer such as Rankin can achieve.

Rather Be the Devil reunites Rebus with his co-workers, Clarke and Malcolm Fox. In addition, he meets up with his ‘friendly enemies’, Christie and Big Ger Cafferty. I haven’t read any of Rankin’s previous novels, so I was unfamiliar with the history of Rebus and his cohorts. While such knowledge wasn’t necessary to enjoy the book, it would have been nice. In addition, one arc of the story deals with issues surrounding Rebus’ health, which again, I had no familiarity.

The first 50 or so pages of Rather Be the Devil were a little slow, until the story got going. Then it was a reasonably fast read. The characters were well fleshed out, although I kept getting them confused with each other (Christie/Cafferty). The plot was interesting. Apparently Rebus never played by the rules, which he certainly does not in this episode.

While Rather Be the Devil was an enjoyable and satisfying read, I don’t know that I’d run out and start from the first book in the series (this is #21) or even line up to read the next in the series, if/when that is published. I think I’m more of a Peter Robinson/Inspector Banks fan.

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You’ll probably not find a bigger Peter Robinson fan than me so this review may be a tad biased. If that doesn’t bother you, then read on.

Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series never fails to please and When the Music’s Over is no exception. Like most (all?) books in the series, it tackles both a current case and a cold or older case. In this particular instance, Robinson also tackles the ethnic hatred that currently seems to be running rampant throughout our ‘civilized’ world.

Mimsy (Mimosa) Moffat, wearing nothing but her birthday suit,  was thrown out of the van that barely stopped into a roadside ditch. She was able to gather herself up and begin limping toward help. When another van appears, Mimsy thinks it’s her savior. Little did she know.

Fifty years after the fact, noted poet Linda Palmer accuses famous entertainer Danny Caxton of rape.This comes on the heels of several other prominent and newsworthy cases of ‘historical abuse’ that have been litigated. (Does Bill Cosby ring a bell?) Of course Caxton denies it, saying that he had enough girls who voluntarily bedded down with him that he didn’t need to rape anyone, especially an under-age girl. Over the decades, his conceit hasn’t abated.

While Detectives Annie Cabbot and Gerry Masterson investigate the former case, Banks and Winsome Jackman investigate the latter. Along the way, Cabbot et al encounter the tension between the Pakistanis who have emigrated to their locale and the local ‘indigenous’ inhabitants who hate the Pakis, as they are called. Banks and Cabbot have their hands full, clues to neither case abounding. As you know, however, these two detectives and their crackerjack teams will solve the case.

After having read my first Inspector Banks mystery, my vision of DCI Banks was not at all like the actor portraying him, Stephen Tompkinson. (I pictured him short and stocky.) However, after years of watching the BBC program (according to IMDB there is a 2016 series–hopefully it will air soon), he has become the epitome of Banks as has Andrea Lowe come to personalize Annie Cabbot. So, of course, I had to include their photos. (SPOILER: For those of you hoping to see these two get together like I do, it doesn’t happen in When the Music’s Over.)

The DCI Banks series has the perfect set of characters, plots, action, romance, etc. It would be an unsolvable mystery how any mystery fan could  have not read any of these books.

 

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If you’re looking for a good, general, all around anthology of short story detective fiction then I’d recommend the Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction edited by Deane Mansfield-Kelley and Lois A. Marchino. It will give novice and experienced mystery readers a good foothold into detective fiction.

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The book is divided into three sections: The Amateur Detective, The Private Investigator and The Police. Each section begins with  a critical essay and commentary (which I skipped). There are also two appendices: Notable Annual Awards for Mystery and Detective Fiction and a Bibliography of Critical Essays and Commentaries.

But the heart of the book is stories. Each section contains stories by some of best authors, classical authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe, pulp authors of the 1930s-1950s such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ed McBain and current authors such as Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky and Peter Robinson.

There is a short author bio before each story, suggested books by the author and suggested read-alike authors. Granted, there are some great mystery authors not included in the anthology, but if all the greats were included it would be a thousand pages, just like Otto Penzler’s Black Lizard books.

The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction is an entertaining way for mystery fans to spend some time. It also makes readers appreciate the art of the short story. Go for it.

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InTheDarkPlacesPeter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series never fails to please and In the Dark Places is no exception. Two events form the basis for this exciting, past paced novel. Financial wiz-kid turned ‘weekend farmer’ John Beddoes has just come home from a Mexico vacation to find his expensive tractor stolen. There seems to have been a rash of robberies in the area; farm equipment, farm animals, etc. Simultaneous to this, injured war veteran Terry Gilchrist is out walking his dog Peaches by an abandoned airfield when she scoots under the chain link fence and bounds into the hangar. No amount of whistling and calling will bring her back so Gilchrist is forced to find the hole in the fence, crawl through and search for Peaches. What he finds in addition is something that looks like blood. So he calls the police. Two days later when a lorry carrying stillborn sheep destined for incineration drives over a cliff and human remains are found in the cargo, there is no doubt that the crimes are related.

Banks, returning from a vacation of his own in Umbria with the lovely Oriana, and crew get involved in both crimes. When it turns out to be human blood in the hangar, now it’s murder. In the Dark Places probes the meat slaughtering industry, especially the unlicensed abattoirs that might sell to local restaurants. It will clearly stop your digestive juices from flowing and possibly make you consider becoming a vegetarian.

The Banks team are all familiar characters and it’s almost as if you can visualize them…maybe you can if you watch the BBC series on Mystery. They have have distinct personalities. There is a little love interest with Winsome and there’s always the push and pull between Annie Cabbot and Banks, which is much different than in the TV series. There’s not much going on with Banks’ family, his son and daughter, only honorable mention, so to speak, although other books have concentrated more on them. And there are no cold cases in this story, while there have been in the past. Music always plays a role in an Inspector Banks book and true to form, it does in this as well.

In the Dark Places is an all around good read. A fine continuation of a fine series.

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TastreOfMurder1A few weeks ago I reviewed the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook: Wickedly Good Meals and Desserts to Die For edited by Kate White. As I ,mentioned, I was surprised about the number of mystery related cookbooks that have been published. Two that whet my appetite were A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers and A second Helping of Murder edited by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezhal. Although not as good as the Mystery Writers Cookbook, they are still interesting. Once again, it reinforced the fact that I’ve just touched the surface of mystery authors. The majority of contributors were authors I’ve never read nor heard of.

Both A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings have snappy section headings such as Choose Your Poison, Pasta Mortem, Just Desserts (an obvious one), Murder Most Fowl and Tough Cookies. Both books have their share of authors I’ve read: Sue Grafton, Robert B. Parker, Joanne Fluke (cute cooking mysteries), Dick Francis, Peter Robinson and April Henry to name a few. But the majority of contributors I’d never heard of. There was scant information about the authors, especially when compared to the Mystery Writers Cookbook. More information would have been nice in order to determine which authors might be of interest. There were also several extended narratives, such as Breakfast With David Dodge or Tea With Dame Agatha or Anthony Bourdain’s How to Cook Pasta Without Getting Whacked.

As far as the recipes go, some were great and some not so great, but that’s the truth in any cookbook and everyone’s palate is different. My favorites in A Taste of Murder were: Connie Shelton’s Green Chile Stew (I really like her Vacation books), Death By Chocolate and Annette Meyer’s Apricot Dessert for those who really can’t cook.

T. Jefferson Parker’s Triggerman’s Rattlesnake was probably the oddest recipe.TasteOfMurder2

Robert Parker was, at the time A Taste of Murder was published, writing his own cookbook, so his contribution consisted of Susan Silverman’s Boiled Water (whimsical? Not so much! Better he should have declined, in my opinion. One day I should outline my opinion of Parker, from what little I’ve read about him.)

Kinsey Millhone’s Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich were in both the Mystery Writers Cookbook and A Taste of Murder. (I’m sure a little research could have come up with a different recipe. She does have other food in her repertoire!)

Without a doubt, my favorite recipe in Second Helpings was my namesake’s, Ed Goldberg’s Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms. Now I know, if I ever write the mystery that’s hidden within me, I’m going to have to use a pen name. Archer Mayer’s The Gunther really turned my stomach and if that’s what Joe Gunther eats, I’m surprised he’s survived 25+ books. I’m glad that man’s best friend has not been forgotten. Patricia Guiver (who I’ve never read) contributed Watson’s Favorite Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dog Biscuits. I’m seriously thinking of trying that recipe.

MysteryWritersCookbookSo, my thoughts on A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings? These books are part conversation pieces, part cookbook. If I get two or three recipes I like out of any cookbook, I feel it was worthwhile. You’ll surely find some recipes you’d like to try. I wish these books, however, had more information on the authors and their mystery books, so I can decide whether I want to read them. In this aspect, as well as the whimsical nature and artwork, the Mystery Writers Cookbook surpassed A Taste of Murder and Second Helpings.

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ChildrenOfTheRevolutionGavin Miller is found dead under the railroad trestle with 5,000 British pounds in his pocket. Sixty-ish, Miller had a checkered past. Several years earlier, he was relieved of his teaching position because of alleged sexual misconduct. Living an isolated existence, the interesting thing was that one of the last phone calls he made was to Lady Chalmers, someone clearly outside of his social circle.

DCI Banks is called on the case, bringing along his crew, Annie Cabbott and Winsome Jackman, along with a newbie, Gerry Masterson.

As with many a Peter Robinson mystery, there is a past and a present. The investigators spend time researching Miller’s whereabouts in the early 1970s, what they call the missing years, as well as the sexual misconduct charges and the present. How Robinson/Banks brings it all together can’t be beat.

What I like about Peter Robinson’s Alan Banks is that he’s a person. We know what music he likes to listen to, what he likes to drink, where he takes his meals. As the books progress, we also learn more about Cabbott and Jackman. You can’t always say that about detectives. Being around the same age as Banks, I like his music references to the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, King Crimson. Brings back lots of memories for me.

What I like about Robinson’s books is that they’re more cerebral. Don’t get me wrong, a surprise ending may pop up in one of his books as well as other mystery writers, but he’s got you thinking all along the way. I certainly didn’t see this ending until it was revealed.

I’ve even taken to watching DCI Banks on public television and while the actor isn’t how I pictured Banks originally, now that’s the way I see him in the books as well.

Suffice it to say, DCI Banks has become one of my favorite mysteries. Children of the Revolution will not disappoint readers and may even score as one of your favorite series.

 

 

 

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Peter Robinson is known for his Inspector Alan Banks British mysteries. However,  Before the Poison, is a stand alone book, somewhat mysterious, but not your typical procedural mystery.

Chris Lowndes is obsessed with two women: his wife, Laura, who succumbed to cancer a year ago and Grace Elizabeth Fox. Chris, a transplanted Brit, moved back to Britain from L.A. and purchased Grace’s secluded estate. It had been vacant for some time. His real estate broker failed to mention one key fact, until after the deal was consummated. Grace was convicted in the murder of her husband and was hanged in 1953. Upon hearing this, Chris becomes obsessed with Grace, her trial and whether indeed she was guilty.

Before the Poison bounces back and forth between the current day and an account of the 1953 drama in the form of a segment of a book Famous Trials or a segment of Grace’s journal written during World War II. Each chapter starts with a short segment of the book or journal and continues as Chris attempts to uncover the truth.

It’s funny, because my first Peter Robinson novel, In a Dry Season, also alternated between the 1940s and the present.

While, indeed, there is a murder in this book, I would not call it a mystery. I would call it an engrossing tale of a man obsessed. Robinson is a marvelous writer, more literary than most mystery writers. As such, one reads his books for the details and descriptions and use of language. Whether or not Chris solves the ‘crime’ is irrelevant because you get caught up in his life and feelings and actions.

Robinson has written over 20 books, too many for me to catch up on from the beginning. However, I am an avid fan of his and will read all his forthcoming books, as should you. Mystery or mysterious, Robinson is on my reading list for sure.

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