Written by Peter Robinson — Newly promoted Detective Superintendent Alan Banks is given a high profile case to lead here in the 23rd novel in Peter Robinson’s impressive series. Former TV personality Danny Caxton is being investigated for the rape of a teenager in 1967 in Blackpool, when Caxton was at his peak. After other paedophile stars such as Jimmy Savile have slipped through the net, the police want Caxton but without any mistakes. Banks has to tread carefully.
The victim in question is Linda Palmer. Now a widow, she’s lived a full life although has never quite dealt with the memory of her assault. To make matters worse a second man was involved in the attack, but she doesn’t know his name. Banks begins to investigate. However information is scant with every piece of testimony lost, seemingly the result of police collusion – Caxton had friends at the very top.
Then, the corpse of a young girl, naked, beaten to death and left by the side of a country road in North Yorkshire is found by a passing cyclist. DI Annie Cabot picks up this case. A post-mortem reveals she has been raped by three men, Pakistani in origin, and was thrown out of a vehicle. She was alive at the time, so another person appears to have committed the final injustice.
When the girl is identified as Mimosa Moffat, Cabot goes to tell her family the bad news. Barely 15, the Moffats weren’t even aware she was missing as she had a tendency to disappear for days on an end. Soon, the investigation points towards a group of local men who may have been grooming Mimosa. Among others…
Robinson’s prose is smooth, elegant and highly practiced. It is easy to be sucked into the narrative and go along for the ride. The characters are highly developed and you’ll experiences a significant sense of their existence. For regular readers of the series, it’s likely this installment will prove to be a contented and enjoyable experience, like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers or soaking in a hot bath.
However, it also feels like the author is going through the motions. The two narrative arcs concern very current news stories – ageing celebrity who abused their fame, and Asian men grooming teenage white girls. The arcs are not connected at all. Alan Banks goes along his investigation, Annie Cabot along hers, very rarely meeting. It feels like two stories, because it is. One without the other would make for a much thinner book. At the conclusion the book feels overly long. And a bit safe.
Yet it’s not.
Some of the rhetoric and language makes for uncomfortable reading. In the investigation of the teenager’s murder, there are regular references to ‘Pakis’ by jaded police officers who patrol the mean streets with no empathy for victims and a view that no-one from the outside could possibly understand the apparent tinderbox of racial tension they are in. Sound familiar? They should all provide stress in the story, but just don’t. It’s like writing about Australia having never been there – lacking in-depth experience.
The Banks arc is more interesting. Again, it’s very current and safe, but Banks is deeper as a character and Caxton a more sinister antagonist. The rape victim Linda Palmer writes a journal which gives a decent insight into her thoughts and the second rapist, Monaghan, provides more detail.
Ultimately, there’s only one significant revelation (albeit a tad obvious) and the police largely go through the motions. There’s no paper trail, it all having been destroyed, but fortunately witnesses with good memories of 50-year-old events pop up to provide the solution. The twists and turns are more gentle curves to be steered around with a light touch on the wheel.
Finally, the editing is woeful. Such a well-known author has been badly let down. There’s a litany of repeated words and phrases along with clunky sentences that become distracting to the point of frustration. Often Banks will tell someone he can’t expand on something, then does so anyway. It feels thrashed out in haste.
If an indie publisher or self-published author shipped a manuscript with this level of problems they’d be dismissed as amateurs. And at £9.99 for a Kindle copy it’s not cheap. It doesn’t seem like this novel will age well nor exist in the hallowed halls of achievement. Which is a pity because Peter Robinson is a fine writer and Banks a great character…
Hodder & Stoughton
CFL Rating: 3 Stars