My Mum is a great fan of Peter Robinson and I had heard very good things about his DCI Banks series, so when I was invited to read his latest release via the Pigeonhole book club, I was very much looking forward to it.
However, I was to be disappointed. I’m not sure if this is because it’s the 26th novel in a series I have never read before, or whether the quality of his earlier books has declined as the number of ‘Banks’ novels has grown, but it was not what I was expecting from such a lauded series.
While I enjoyed the actual writing, I didn’t enjoy the endless scene setting, Banks’ choice of music, the album or setting it came from, the details of the food he was eating, etc., etc., it all just felt like padding to me. Perhaps it resonates with long-term fans familiar with Banks and his preferences, but it was just a bit tedious and felt like filler. There were so many political references, to Brexit, to Nigel Farage (even a plot angle mirroring a story linked to Nigel Farage in high school), and what seemed to be soap-boxing from the author that at times I could have been reading the Guardian, rather than an novel that I would usually read to escape the constant drama going on in Westminster. This will also date the book pretty quickly.
There are a couple of stories going on at the same time. I understand that one is threading through a couple of books (again, not aware of the backstory), and it just felt very disjoined. Zelda, the protagonist of the ‘side’ story, is pretty unlikeable as a character and I just felt she got in the way.
Finally, I HATED the way women were written in this book. Every women is physically described, then we’re told how good she is at her job despite the way she looks. This doesn’t seem to happen for any of the male characters. As an example on one occasion, two police officers (one a ‘coltish’ female with ‘pre-Raphaelite red curls’, walk down a school corridor and two boys cross them, obviously agog at the officers being in the school and Banks assumes it’s because they’re having ‘highly erotic’ thoughts about the female officer. Not because she’s a confident and intimidating police officer? It’s old-fashioned and cringeworthy, and it really cheapens the character of Banks for me.
So, not I’m afraid, a glowing review. It’s obvious that Peter Robinson is a talented author and as I mentioned earlier, his writing style is enjoyable and engaging. Fans of the Banks series may well lap this volume up without question, but I don’t think I’ll be seeking out another Robinson book any time soon.
Thanks to the Pigeonhole book club for inviting me to read this novel in return for an unbiased and honest review.