Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Children of the revolution

The end of August means that there is a new Inspector Banks novel available, written by Peter Robinson. This novel, in keeping with the partial tradition with Robinson has established, is named after a song, in this case one by T. Rex. The song itself was not particularly good; it is not referenced in the novel (can one imagine Banks listening to T. Rex? Maybe to their predecessor, Tyrannosaurus Rex, but not the teenybopper music that Marc Bolan made from 1971 onwards).

This year, I bought the Kindle version of the book: I clicked on the payment form on Amazon, connected the Kindle to my wifi, and a few minutes later the book was available for reading. Amazing!

The novel itself is not so amazing. Whilst I had difficulty in putting it down (I read it over the course of a weekend), I wouldn't class this book amongst his best. I've been trying to think of reasons why ...
  1. A body is found after heavy rain, thus there are no forensics.
  2. There doesn't seem to be any real motive for the death - it isn't even clear whether the death was caused by murder, manslaughter, accident or suicide.
  3. Banks' team investigates only one death, thus there's none of the two pronged attack (Banks on one side, Annie Cabot on the other) which make some of the later books so good.
  4. Annie's characterisation is making her more bitter and less attractive as the years go by. Sergeant Winsome Jackson - who could have been a star - is given more inner dialogue than in previous books and turns out to be a prude. It's very hard to identify with her.
  5. Hints are tossed out at the beginning of the story that Banks is due for retirement (he is approaching 60) but may be promoted instead. I expected that the story would end with some reference to this, but no.
  6. Similarly, it seems that Banks may have found a new romantic relationship, but there's no development.
So, due to the lack of forensics, the team (only four people) work on the meagre leads that they have. Banks is warned off one lead as this involves a friend of the Chief Constable - of course, by the end of the book, one sees that this was the correct path. The whole investigation seems to be arbitrary, and it's only by chance that a solution is found. I doubt that this would happen in real life.

I'll give the novel another read but I doubt that I'll be more impressed. At least I didn't notice any mistakes - Robinson thanks several people for copy editing.

At the end of the novel, there was an advert for 'other books that you may enjoy', including a new Ian Rankin novel. It seems that Rebus has rejoined the police after the retirement age has been increased, and he investigates something along with DI Fox. That book will be published in another few months. So it seems that Rankin hasn't started writing books with Siobhan Clarke as his main protagonist. 

Throwing in hints about Banks retiring is taking a page out of the Rebus universe. I can understand why the police might be raising the retirement age - people's life expectancy is growing and there isn't enough money in the retirement funds to keep people for twenty years.

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