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Monday, May 18, 2009

Friend of the Devil. Peter Robinson. Hodder (2008)


This is an enjoyable crime story marred by an display of unpleasant sexual politics that adds nothing to the story or to the cast members involved. A central female character is punished mightily for having a one night stand with a significantly younger man, a central male character gets to spend a night with a stunningly beautiful, confident, clever and much younger woman and enjoy it without significant emotional consequences. The contrast between the treatment of the two could not be starker and given the space that is devoted to the trouble that follows Annie Cabbot after she wakes up in a stranger's bed is impossible to ignore. It is in fact absurdly intrusive and contrasts so intensely with the silken treatment of Alan Bank's slide into sexual comfort that it has to be deliberate. Away from that the story is a very well constructed narrative about two murders. One is the rape and murder of a teenage girl in an tangle of little streets called the Maze. Peter Robinson manages to create a sufficient context to explain the use of sexual assault as a plot point, it is integral to the actions of the cast rather than a gratuitous grace note. The investigation is nicely set up and executed, there is a solid logic to developments and the conclusion is satisfying and credible.
The second murder is that of a woman in a wheelchair, she had been left at a cliff top with her throat cut. It turns out that she was not who she appeared to be, she had been a significant character in a previous investigation conducted by Alan Banks. This investigation takes a enjoyably unexpected turn and the conclusion is nicely developed. The cast are vigorous and well developed, the police are not very sympathetic, they are very credible. First rate crime writing, shame about the detours into stupidity.

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