Watching the Dark
Peter Robinson
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Buy *Watching the Dark: An Inspector Banks Novel* by Peter Robinsononline

Watching the Dark: An Inspector Banks Novel
Peter Robinson
William Morrow
384 pages
February 2014
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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With Robinson’s books being televised as DCI Banks here in the US on PBS, one hopes that his work will finally receive a wider audience and he will get the accolades he so richly deserves. Expanding on the theme of his earlier novels, Robinson has DCI Alan Banks and his intrepid colleague DS Annie Cabbott on the hunt for a missing girl in Tannin, Estonia. Thay are also working to solve the death of two innocents--one of whom, DI Bill Quinn, was found brutally murdered by the lakefront of at St. Peter’s Police Convalescence and Treatment Centre, a hospital for physically and emotionally wounded members of the police.

Murder or not, life for Banks has been dull without Annie to stir things up, but now she’s returning to work after recovering from the injuries sustained in Bad Boy. Annie has arrived just in time. When a fellow detective stumbles upon Quinn’s body, crouched and hunched by the water’s edge with a crossbow bolt buried in his chest, Banks is stymied at what Bill could have been up to. Far from a “naughty boy," the prematurely gray-haired Quinn had a distinguished service record. But upon a search of his room and the discovery of a series of photos, one of which shows him with a girl--quite possibly a hooker--the most likely scenario is that a criminal with a grudge has a taste for revenge and blackmail.

Banks is now faced with a murdered detective who may have been having sex with an underage girl. He also learns that Quinn helped with the investigation on Rachel Hewitt, who disappeared in Estonia in summer of 2006 while out on a hen party with girlfriends. Quinn even spent a week in Tallinn carrying out background checks into Rachel. Apparently, the case haunted him for years. Rachel was never found, the case never closed. It was never determined whether she was actually a missing person or presumed dead, although Quinn had set his sights on a certain Estonian villain as the instrument of Rachel’s disappearance.

From the local Leeds underworld to the winding cobbled alleys and lon=g evening shadows of Tallinn’s Old Town, the trail is fraught with mystery and a fair amount of danger for Banks, Annie, and new addition Joanne Passero, who is sent from Professional Standards to watch over the proceedings. Considered a member of the “rat squad,” Passero wants to accompany Banks in the investigation into Quinn’s death, leading to much sarcasm from him. Annie grinds through the real police work, tracking down pertinent facts that will ultimately solve the case. More troubling for Banks is the discovery of body found in the ruins of a farm on the edge of Garskill Moor. When forensics link it to Quinn’s murder, Banks finds the case turning into a quest about what really happened to Rachel.

While Joanne continually prods Banks into a variety of immature responses that taxes his belief in her, Banks stands in danger of allowing one set of facts to obscure or distort another. Drawn deeply into the painful underworld of illegal immigration and the junkies, gamblers and the poor sods who fall for migrant-labor camps, the detective is torn between acknowledging that for six whole years Quinn might have obstructed the full investigation of Rachel's disappearance. When Warren Corrigan, a local criminal who trades in an illegal money lending scam, is linked to Quinn, a new layer of complexity is added to the plot. Corrigan also has links to organized crime; there’s a chance that he was indirectly behind Quinn’s killing, or at least knows more about it than he’s willing to admit.

With Quinn’s unfolding past and Banks' obsession to find the whereabouts of Rachel, the very human foibles of so many characters fascinate us: a dead journalist’s discoveries, a mother who won't let go of her lost daughter's innocence, a shameful payoff embraced by a bent Estonian cop, and the incipient bond of guilt and shame in a girl who can never quite recover from the fateful night her best friend disappeared forever. The three-dimensionality of the characters runs deep into the structure of the book as Robinson creates a pervasive, dangerous atmosphere, particularly in the later sections when Banks and Passero travel to Tallinn to try to retrace Rachel’s final moments.

Stories with so many moving parts and plot complexities are sometimes difficult to pull off without becoming convoluted, but Robinson writes with such astuteness, using his meticulous knowledge of human nature and of the criminal underworld to master all of his unexpected twists and turns. Gripping and intense, from the outset the case is riddled with a ruthless, brittle energy. Banks proves to be the consummate detective while he works to solve the case against a backdrop of avarice, duplicity and greed.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2013

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