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Dry Bones That Dream is the seventh of Peter Robinson's books featuring his main character, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. There are man authors on the scene at the moment who have been producing quality crime thrillers for a while, and my wife first introduced me to Robinson's books when she randomly chose his first, Gallows View, when choosing a present for me just over a year ago.
The course of the books produces a good level of characterisation, and this is where I feel Robinson's forte is. However, the plots often leave a little to be desired, not in their construction, but sometimes in their portrayal, and how they are described. This time, Banks is called to the rather gruesome scene of the murder of a seemingly dull and innocent accountant, Keith Rothwell.
Rothwell has had his head blown off with a shotgun, a fact which naturally disturbs his family. However, their curious reaction and the witness statement form the daughter, who was forcibly tied up and genuinely worried for her own life as well, make Banks think that there is more to this than meets the eye. The trail of the two assailants/murderers, leads Banks and his team of now established characters to the nearby city of Leeds, where matters get even more confusing for them.
Robinson's characters have been carefully developed over the course of the first six books, and this is continued very well in this 7th. Banks himself is very vivid for me, and here, Robinson takes us along for the ride as Banks starts going through a rough patch which sees him question his morals, his judgment, and sees him almost lose his temper. He calls his own relationship with his wife into question as that of Rothwell's becomes blurred, and the arrival of Banks' nemesis of sorts doesn't help matters.
This nemesis is 'Dirty Dick' Burgess, a policeman Banks has encountered a few times before, one who is bloshy and arrogant and who will do anything to climb the ladder, and has. He wades in, throwing the political delicacy card at Banks and bringing a wider, international incident element to the investigation that confuses matters EVEN further.
Add to this Banks' team of officers and the cleverly described characters who crop up in relation to this particular book, and it ends up being a collective of excellent characters, developed just as well as you may find in some of Ian Rankin's books.
I find myself comparing Robinson and Rankin, as it is perhaps the closest comparison my own reading experience can give me for Robinson. Rankin is an extremely successful author, and while the similarities in characterisation skill are there, I cannot necessarily say the same for the plot. While Rankin retains clarity throughout, no matter how convulted things may seem, Robinson managed to completely confuse me with events in this book.
I suppose everyone is allowed an 'off' day, and authors an 'off' book, particularly if their publishing deal puts pressure on them to release books at certain regular intervals, and perhaps this is Robinson's bad day. Dry Bones That Dream has essentially a very good plot, when you look back at it. However, he overclouds the issues with poorly placed forays into Banks' personal life. These are necessary for the development of the character, and it is perhaps a matter of 'when' and not 'what' these developments happen.
I found myself having to take things rather slowly to ensure I gathered the entire set of information and understood the plot. Some points just didn't slot into place quite as well as they perhaps should have done, and even the characterisation became hazy with plot details, and I had to keep reminding myself who was who, especially when some people's identities came into question.
I can't say I enjoyed this episode in Banks' literary life so far, and it is probably my least favourite compared to the previous six, having read them all in order. But then one thing that comes out of this with its head held high is the further development of Banks himself. Robinson takes him to a darker and more ominous low at one point, and we see a side of him that is well written and truly vivid, reminding us that even the good guys can snap and have moments where you wonder what they could do. For this, I salute Robinson.
Despite this, I can't drag Dry Bones That Dream up any higher than a passable read. It is still better than many books I have read, but this one goes past without much notice for me, and were it not for the continued good characterisation, it would have been a severe disappointment to have read. I'm hoping that the next book in the series, Innocent Graves, will be better. If not, I shall wonder whether to continue reading them or not.
Dry Bones That Dream is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £5.49. It retails at £6.99 on there, and this is a reduced price. I managed to get mine second hand for a couple of pounds, and no doubt you'll be able to find it cheaper online if you have look around.