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I have been meticulously working my way through Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series of books, and have for the most part enjoyed them. Cold Is The Grave is the 11th in the series, which actually started in the 80s. We're now into the 21st Century with the tales, and Robinson is sure to bring in a lot of current affairs and technology as well as his own feelings on this as the tales continue.
Previous Banks stories have been a bit hit and miss, and I felt at one stage it was getting a bit stagnant. However, the previous book had picked it back up again, and I have to say that the largest part of this book also sees Robinson on top form. Inspector Alan Banks has a small community to deal with in Yorkshire, but trouble seems to find him. His recent working past has seen him clash heads with one of his superiors, Superintendent 'Jimmy' Riddle, and this one brings things in quite tightly as Riddle asks Banks to use his rather unorthodox policing methods to find Riddle's missing teenage daughter. This takes Banks to London where he uncovers a horrible and seedy world that ultimately results in Banks investigating a murder right on his own doorstep.
I haven't really revealed anything mroe here than is in the blurb, and at first I thought that it was a bit revealing in terms of plot. However, jumping to conclusions is something you have to be really careful of and this was the case here. The plot was very well constructed, introducing a number of different plot threads that all wend their merry way to the conclusion of the book. As with most good murder mystery books, the clues are all there, and it's one of those where you find out what happened and utter the words 'Of course', almost out loud. Really well designed plot.
Banks manages to do this by using the bulk of his established characters. Banks himself hasn't really changed much. We see a bit more of his darker side now that he and wife Sandra are separated, although this is something he is looking to repair. Riddle needing Banks is a perfect way of switching their power struggle and keeping the reader interested, as is the inclusion of Banks' sometime even more unorthodox and career hungry colleague from Scotland Yard, 'Dirty' Dick Burgess, once a nemesis, now more a friend. Add to this an interesting aside with some of the other police characters and some seemingly innocuous and irrelevant events (of course they're not at all irrelevant by the end!) and you have a plot that doesn't let you get bored at any point.
It's keeping things interesting and making sure that developments are regular that can make or break a book, and where Robinson may have fallen down before, he surges ahead here. There are moments that you start to feel as if something needs to happen sooner rather than later, and I still can't say that I'm as comfortable and entertained reading him as I am with some other similar authors, but ultimately I'm liking the style of the more recent Banks books, and it makes me want to pick the next one up.
I suppose this is the key, really. If it makes you want to read the next in the series, then it's doing something right, and I suppose it's the way he balances the characters and the plot in this one to make the interest levels keep on rising. The introduction of a policeman nearing middle age and grumbling at technology as well as reminiscing about his own youth is also a very open and revealing element, and you can't help but wonder if there's an element of himself in Banks as Robinson writes. This is supposed to be true of most authors - it's only natural that as you're writing a bit of yourself comes out onto the page. With Banks, you almost feel as if Robinson is commenting on how he sees technology and the world in general develop around him, and it makes things quite interesting.
Overall, I'd highly recommend Cold Is the Grave, and indeed the entire series. There are a few blips in the run up to this book, but the majority are thoroughly entertaining reads, and ones I'd happily suggest any crime thriller reader would enjoy. There are a few more in the series to go, and I'm certainly looking forward to them. Recommended.