Monday, July 24, 2017

Sleeping in the ground

Whilst mooching around the Kindle store, buying the book about "Rubber soul", I checked whether the new Peter Robinson book was available. Indeed it is, so I swiftly downloaded it and began reading.

As has been his habit over the past few years, Peter Robinson's latest book, "Sleeping in the ground", is named after a song - in this case, by Blind Faith. There seems to be no connection whatsoever between the song and the novel.

A very brief description of the beginning (not written by me): It's a beautiful day for a wedding. But suddenly shots are fired and both wedding party members as well as guests are left dead and bleeding. It takes the police as well as emergency vehicles longer than normal to get to the dying, bleeding and wounded. By the time they do ... the shooter is gone ... there is no sign of him anywhere. Inspector Banks ... on his way home from a funeral ... ends up at the crime scene where there is confusion as well as chaos. No one has seen any sign of the shooter except perhaps a youth staying at a hostel. But a conversation with him leads Inspector Banks and his team nowhere. Please, no longer Inspector Banks (that should be Chief Inspector) but rather Superintendent Banks.

I don't want to write about the story very much, for fear of giving away the plot and whatever surprises it holds. Instead, I'll write about the cast. DS Winsome Jackson is 'disposed' of, right from the start: she's one of the people who are shot at the wedding, but not seriously injured. She goes home to Jamaica to recover and so doesn't really appear in the novel. Annie Cabbot appears but doesn't get much internal dialogue, if at all. Alan Banks has plenty of internal dialogue, but it's about an old girl-friend who, to the best of my knowledge, has never been referenced in any of the books. His poet friend from the last book, Linda Palmer, makes only a brief appearance [I didn't notice this before, but Linda Palmer is the name a good friend of mine used during her first marriage]. 

One interesting character is Ray Cabbot, Annie's father, who has decided to move to the area and buy a cottage. He stays with Alan Banks, as Annie's cottage is very small. He doesn't really add anything to the story, but makes the background more interesting. If anything, he functions more like Alan's wife, preparing food which other characters then eat. There is some reference to his artistic ability (in fact, he makes a key drawing, saving a police artist from doing so), but he could easily have been dropped from the book.

Psychologist Jenny Fuller returns: she appeared in many of the early books, providing extra-marital temptation for Alan Banks (which is never fulfilled). I don't remember exactly when she disappeared from the cast, but I think it was shortly after Annie appeared. Temptation once again rears its ugly head, but it seems that this time Banks and Fuller are prepared to let bygones be bygones and not get involved. A few senior superintendents also make appearances but they are peripheral to the story.

The star this time is DC Gerry Masterson, who makes most of the running. The final chapters belong to her, she has most of the insights and even delivers a briefing. She also betrays her inexperience in a similar manner to Winsome in "Abattoir Blues". One description of her reveals a new fact: she's six foot tall. I don't remember her height being mentioned in any of her earlier appearances.

It's a good book but not outstanding. Most of the time the police are wandering about, unable to find any lead to whoever the shooter is. After a great deal of patience and some good ideas, they finally get some leads, and only then does the pace escalate. So I suppose one needs a great deal of patience to read this book. Faint but damning praise.

There's a mention of a girl singing Richard Thompson's "Farewell, farewell" in memory of those killed at the wedding; Sandy Denny is referenced. Otherwise, all of the music seems to be classical (certainly no Blind Faith, despite the presence of Ray).

I admit that I am sorely tempted to create a chart of which characters appear in which books, but that won't help me appreciate the series any more than I currently do.

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