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As I gradually catch up with Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks books, I constantly wonder when the next bombshell is going to come, when something completely out of the blue is going to come along. What i hadn't expected is a frenetic, frantic, malcoordinated and thoroughly confusing book to do it. I'm not sure if I enjoyed it, but it certainly made me want to pick the next one up straight away.
Let me explain: Banks usually gets a murder with a twist, however decorated in different characters and travel it may be, sub plots and significant events thrown in to make each book different. In essence, this is no different, and there's a certain amount of solace to be taken from this. However, as the book progresses, the tension mounts where Banks is concerned, and he starts going a bit off the radar. It's hard to give some sort of decent description without spoiling things for prospective readers, but certain events transform the nature of the book as well as the focus.
The basic plot revolves around the murder of a thespian, Laurence Silbert, and his partner Mark Hardcastle. It appears to be a crime of passion, with the latter killing the former before committing suicide. But when MI6 starts getting involved and Silbert's past becomes clear, Banks has different ideas and just won't let things lie. Annie Cabot, DI to Banks' DCI, jumps on the bandwagon as per usual, and Robinson does a good job of developing the usual characters we get in terms of the police.
The plot is thought out quite well and certainly provides some interest, but around two thirds of the way in, it's almost as if Robinson just got fed up of writing another generic Banks murder book and threw in some really unexpected developments which had virtually nothing to do with the plot. I thought as events on their own they were quite powerful, well written and certainly made it hard to put the book down. But linked in with the tale itself the link was really tenuous, and the relevance to half of the events of the latter third just didn't work.
The result was confusion: on one hand I was enjoying the passion and power of some of the events that had suddenly appeared; on the other I was annoyed that it made no sense to what was going on. There's a real cliffhanger ending too which leaves quite a bit uncovered, and I felt that the main plot with Silbert and Hardcastle was wrapped up as an insignificant part of the publication, while the majority of the book focused on it.
I'm just not sure I liked it. I have certainly been awaiting something new and a different angle, as the books tend to be very similar in terms of plot but with differing and developing sub plots, but on this occasion the difference was too much and seemed completely out of place. Not one I'd recommend to be honest, although if you've been pacing himself through the series it's certainly one you'd need to include when reading. Just be ready for a bit of a change and almost some soul searching from Banks. At one point (and I hasten to add my reluctance to make this sort of comparison), it was almost as if I was reading Ian Rankin's Rebus suffering from a bit of feeling sorry for himself and retreating into himself. I actually willed Robinson to not follow suit. He teetered, that's all I'll say.
So, not the best then. Completely average for the most part with a complicated but explained plot for two thirds of it; but then degenerating into a bit of a soul searching mess for the final part. I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on this - very different, and I didn't really like it.