I have long been a fan of DCI Banks and Peter Robinson. Banks is supremely ethical, but never arrogant, and he’s a Guardian reader to boot, as revealed in this recent installment. He works in the fictional Yorkshire town of Eastvale. Banks formerly worked in the Met, London, but went north for a quieter life. However, judging from this series, his work life is not that quiet.
The discovery of the body of a young Middle Eastern boy on the East Side Estate, found in a “wheelie bin” (large garbage can), brings Banks and his detective, Gerry, a woman with a prestigious Cambridge degree, as well as his long-time partner, Annie Cabot to the estate to investigate. The boy’s identity is unknown, but eventually they determine he was part of a drug pushing ring operating out of Leeds, that he was 12-years-old and a Syrian refugee. Subsequently, is an area of abandoned decaying houses, a wheelchair-bound man in his 60’s is found dead of an overdose. The police investigation works to determine if these are related to a Leeds drug ring run by Albanians.
There is a sub-plot involving a woman named Zelda, who lives with Annie Cabot’s father. Zelda, like Annie’s father, is an artist, which explains their liaison. She is close to Annie’s age. Zelda, who was trafficked from Moldovia in her teens, finds life in Yorkshire to be an escape from her traumatic past. She spends a few days a month working in London with the Crime Bureau as a “super recognizer”, a person who never forgets a face. This sub-plot was very interesting to me as Zelda seeks justice for herself and other trafficked women, and revenge against the Albanians who run this business, who now work in London.
After completing his BA in English Literature at University of Leeds, Robinson went to Canada to do his MA and then his PhD in English in Toronto. He has lived in Canada since then. Of course, a PhD is not a prerequisite for writing detective fiction. I will add that similar to Robinson, Ian Rankin, another favorite of mine, pursued, but did not finish a PhD in English at the University of Edinburgh. I learned about their advanced education when they appeared together at a bookstore event in Washington DC over a decade ago. This helped me recognize that reading detective fiction was not a lowly pastime. The late P.D. James had a lot to say about detective fiction and I cherish her observation that many readers of this genre are very intelligent and have a highly developed sense of justice. Good detective fiction provides the opportunity to see justice prevail. Banks is from a working-class background and dislikes those who flaunt wealth and privilege. It is always satisfying to see him defeat those who try to use their positions to hide the truth, and this is certainly the case in this novel. Peter Robinson always infuses the Banks novels with references to music, one of my favorite aspects of the series. He doesn’t disappoint in this book, and he continues to introduce me to music I’d like to explore.
While some Goodreads ratings were middling to low, I found this to be another satisfying book in the series. Robinson includes themes of gentrification (in this case at the hands of crooks and petty criminals), drug trafficking, sex trafficking of women from Eastern Europe, Syrian refugees, and Brexit. I listened to the audiobook deftly narrated by Simon Prebble. 4.5 stars