Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Strange Affair. Peter Robinson. Pan Books (2005)
This is a very enjoyable police procedural. Detective Chief inspector Alan Banks is still recovering for an attempt made on his life and the burning down of his house. He gets a call for help from his brother, a man he has had very little contact with or in common with. When Banks travels to London to meet his brother, he has vanished and Banks has a strong suspicion of foul play. Detective Annie Cabbot has a case of a woman murdered in her car on a deserted road, she has a hand written note in her pocket giving DCI Banks' address and directions. The two cases converge nicely and the investigation has some very nasty surprises for Banks. The reveals are cunningly staged, the action is clear and direct and the plot at the root of the story is solid and effectively unpleasant.
DCI Banks is a rather unsympathetic character, a competent and effective police officer he is hard to warm to. The story puts him in an interesting position, he is investigating his own family and confronting his own feelings about his brother, whom he essentially disapproves of. He is given a nicely drawn problem of how to respond to the possible criminal activities of his brother, which has his greater loyalty family of the job.
The rest of the cast are well drawn and the investigation is very well structured. The cast share the spotlight and this gives the story range and diversity. DI Cabbot is given a greater emotional range than Banks and some significant baggage. It gives her depth as well as degree of defensiveness that keeps the reader as well as the other cast members at bay. Overall the cast are notable for their energy and sharp corners rather than being engaging. A smart and thoughtful plot and an excellent cast make for a gripping, if slightly cold, story, well worth reading.