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Travelling up to visit my Mum in Lancashire takes roughly four hours and as I generally set off at stupid o'clock in the morning in order to avoid the horrendous wall-to-wall lorries on the M6 and radio isn't terribly exciting at that time of day, I usually take a couple of audio books to listen to on my journey. This latest trip was made in the company of Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot and they made the 3 hours and 50 minutes a very enjoyable experience.
Price and availability:
I downloaded my copy of In a Dry Season onto my MP3 player for free via the library but this book is also available from Audible.co.uk through Amazon for £6.82 or free if you sign up for their 30 day free trial. It's also available in paperback format from 1p.
The effects of a long hot summer are making themselves evident in the Yorkshire Dales and Thornfield Reservoir is at a very low ebb, so low in fact, that the ruined village which once lay in the flooded valley is visible once more and it's about to reveal the secret that's been lying beneath the waves for decades. A young boy playing in the derelict houses discovers a skeleton and it falls to DCI Alan Banks to discover not only who the skeleton once was but why it has been lying in a derelict house in a flooded valley for the last 50 years.
I've never read any books by Peter Robinson before and have frequently skipped over them in the library because I just didn't fancy reading about a middle aged British policeman in some remote part of north west England which may well be due to the fact that I come from that area and familiarity breeds contempt. However, reading the blurb on the library website, the story seemed quite appealing. There are a couple of flooded valleys in that area and I remember as a child being taken to see the graveyard at Thrusscross where my great-grandparents and two of their children were buried because the little valley was due to become a reservoir and also going to see another reservoir where the church tower and several houses were visible after a long dry spell had lowered the water level.
I suppose if I had to describe this story it would be that it's a cross between an episode of Inspector Frost and Waking the Dead and rather than being a somewhat boring police procedural novel, it turned out to be a gripping and entertaining listen with an engaging lead character in the form of DCI Alan Banks. Banks is a man who's going through something of a midlife crisis with a wife who no longer wishes to be married to him, a son hoping to break into the music industry and who wants his parents to get back together again, a working partnership which is taking on a much more romantic aspect and a boss who hates his guts. Poor beleaguered chap! And on top of all that he's been handed a near impossible task of dealing with a decades old murder mystery to solve with precious little to go on.
This particular audio book is an abridged version and I'm unsure quite how much has been left out but I found the story flowed well and I didn't feel as though I was missing out on vital information. This is the tenth book in the Inspector Banks series so there must be a huge amount of back story but it was easy to pick up most of what has gone before in Banks's personal life and, of course, the case itself is a one off. The story is told in the third person and the narrator is Neil Pearson who manages to alter his voice enough to differentiate between the characters and managed to make his voice light enough even to cope with the female dialogue, too. When delivering Inspector Banks's dialogue, especially when speaking with his superior, the hated Assistant Chief Commissioner 'Jimmy' Riddle, his voice was imbued with just enough cynicism and world-weariness without sounding insolent.
Intertwined with the modern day story is Vivien Emsley's account of events written at the end of World War II when she was a teenager which gradually reveals all the secrets and lies which surround the then thriving village community of Hobbs End. This is told in the first person in the form of a journal and is read by Anna Massey. This interspersing past events with the present day investigation works surprisingly well, even though the listener learns of what happened at Hobbs End before Banks and Annie and it adds an interesting historical dimension to the story of a time when the village played host to US military and the Land Army, before being taken forward into the present day to see how Banks is piecing together the evidence.
I really liked Inspector Banks. He's a totally believable character, very much a flawed human being, stumbling around in the dark when it comes to his personal life, much like the rest of us, but at work his humane approach to policing is very evident and he's ably supported by his partner, Annie, both in and out of work. I could quite see how he and his boss, Riddle, would not get on as they are the antithesis of each other. However, I think there may be some history behind the dislike which wasn't revealed in this story.
There are lots of twists and turns to both stories and the various threads are very cleverly tied up in an excellent and surprising ending.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this story, both the historical account which was filled with poignancy and a sense of doomed inevitability and which was beautifully read by Anna Massey, and also the modern day grind of investigative police work alongside dealing with unpleasant work colleagues and fractious relatives. This story gets 5 stars from me and it's certainly made me want to check out Inspector Banks's past. I shall be hot footing it to the library in order to begin at the beginning.
During a blistering summer, drought has depleted the precious resources of Thornfield Reservoir, uncovering the remains of a small village called Hobb's End - hidden from view for over forty years. For a curious young boy this resurfaced hamlet has become a magical playground...until he unearths a human skeleton. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, unpopular with his superiors for having challenged the system once too often, is given the impossible task of identifying the victim - a woman who lived in a place that no longer exists, whose former residents are scattered to the winds. Anyone else might throw in the towel but, aided by an intuitive detective sergeant Annie Cabbot, Banks sets out to uncover the murky past buried beneath a flood of time.