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Gallow's View is the first in Peter Robinson's Inspector Bank's series, although not the first book that I have read from them. After spotting half of the series for 20p each in the local library's book sale I decided to buy all of them and have been making a start on reading the whole series.
I see these on sale a lot at charity shops also, so you could pick them up from there for about £2 each. They are also on sale in loads of the big retail shops like Waterstones or WH Smiths for about £7-£8.
Gallow's view is set within Yorkshire, after Inspector Banks moves from London for a quieter police life. As usual, the thing I like most about Robinson's books is that it follows 3 crimes within the areas instead of just a long drawn out book about 1. The combination of both the murder of an elderly lady, burglaries and a peeping tom kept me interested for the book and the variety was much more appealing.
I've liked Robinson's style of writing from his newer books, but I was happy to see that his writing hasn't dramatically changed and was still a great read. It doesn't try to be ridiculously complex like many crime books, and he has a style that is easy to read yet still has lots of mystery and thriller tendencies to it.
It was quite tense throughout the whole book but not to the extent where it became overused and dull. The twists and turns kept you guessing the whole time and were not just thrown in there to make an interesting read but well thought out.
The characters throughout the novel were very believable, the way he describes them and their characteristics were almost as if you could imagine encountering them in your day to day life. It was quite difficult to guess who could have committed the crimes at points as he always seems to make you suspect someone else. At one point I did think I'd worked out who had committed it and then it turned out to be someone else, so it just goes to show he always keeps people guessing.
There are various bits about Bank's personal life to which makes it less of just a crime book and makes you interested within the character himself. I think that Robinson does describe points well enough that make you interested within Banks to see how he'll turn out through the rest of the series.
It was written in 1987, so some of the points and ways things are done are quite outdated. However, they are not too noticable through the plot of the book itself.
I would definitely read this book again, as soon as I forget parts of the plot that is, as it was very readable and easy to get through. It is quite a small book to, so I found it great for bringing to read on the train as it fits quite easily into my handbag!
In conclusion, I think that this is a great first novel and introduction to the Inspector Banks series. It is well written, a great combination of crimes and interesting, developed characters throughout. I would definitely recommend someone to read this if they were a crime fan.
Gallows view is the first Chief Inspector Banks novel written by Peter Robinson, it is set in 1986. I have been reading the Banks' novel which now number 19 but in no particular order. The novels are always set in the present, but the present can become the now fairly distant past so this book was written and set in the then present 1986 but is now firmly in the past in terms of attitudes and atmosphere.
Anyway in this the first book in the series we meet Detective Inspector (in this book) Alan Banks, he's in his mid-30's, married to Sandra and has two teenage children. He has just moved from the stresses of the Met in London to be an inspector in the more rural and hopefully for him quieter region of North Yorkshire set around the fictional town of Eastvale.
The book begins with an abortive robbery which appears to go wrong and an old woman dies, a peeping tom and a couple of teenage kids who have taken to robbing houses when the owner is out for the night. Banks as a senior officer in the CID is asked to investigate the crimes and along with the more Neanderthal Sergeant Hartley sets about investigating the death, robberies and the sinister peeping tom. Also entering the story is a pretty psychologist from Leeds called Jenny and the local camera club for which Sandra is a member.
This is as I mentioned the first book in the series and is by its nature a gentle introduction to Banks and his colleagues, the town of Eastvale and North Yorkshire. The Banks novels are clearly influenced to a degree by the Morse novels by Colin Dexter, we have an opera loving, beer drinking inspector who has a bit of an eye for the ladies and tends to investigate his crimes with an accompanying sergeant. The books are only influenced though, Alan Banks is distinct enough away from Morse to make the books enjoyable without touching on plagiarism and the crimes tend to have a grubbier less cerebral angle than the crimes investigated by Morse.
In this book, the main focus of the story is the peeping tom and who it could be and how the crime might spiral out of control, this aspect of the novel does feel a bit dated, the psychologist Jenny is a bit full of rather dodgy 80's thoughts on the connection between viewing and acting. However, it serves as a central prop and gives the contrasting characters of Banks (modern man) and Hartley (classic over-drinking plodding copper) to vent their respective views on the rights of women to undress without being corrupted by male eyes. The psychologist being a bit of all right (Hartley) only adds to the sexual tension in the later chapters of the book and the book ends with a predictable scaling of the threat from the tom and how Banks sympathises with both the culprit and the victim.
In some ways, the use of a set of relatively benign crimes (though none are in any way commended) without any murders does allow for the entry of Banks in a more realistic manner than many gun-toting serial killer investigations used by other writers. The culprits for the crimes are all believable and the book ends with a bit of a bang with a couple of tense situations which come to conclusion on the same night.
I'm glad in retrospective that the first novel of DCI Banks was a success and allowed for the successive novels to become more focused, more complex and the characters of Banks, Sandra, and the other coppers he meets to become part of the story rather than a tag along to fill in the pages between events in the investigation.
I am an avid fan of crime and detective thrillers, and even though my wife is always on the hunt for something in a different genre that I would like, she saw this book last Christmas and thought I might like it. Nearly a year on, and I am halfway throught the fifth of Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series of books, and I have loved them all so far, none more so than this one, Gallows View.
The book is set in Yorkshire in the late 1980s, as we are first introduced to Inspector Alan Banks, a hot shot policeman from London who has moved up to fill a vacant post deep in the Yorkshire Dales. Robinson breaks Banks in easily for his first mystery, giving him the case of a peeping tom causing distress amongst the women of Eastvale, part of the small community he has entered. Among the aggrieved is his wife, Sandra, and we are introduced to them as a couple as well as Banks himself as the local Inspector.
Robinson does very well in relaying a well thought out case in the style of a gentle murder mystery but without the murder aspect. I would like to have said that among the many crime authors we have these days, it is refreshing to have one of them see the trend of launching their favoured character straight into a gruesome murder and ignore it. However, on researching the book, I found that it was actually written in the late 1980s, before a lot of the more modern crime authors had put pen to paper for their topselling novels.
As such, we get an insight into the mind and workings of a policeman attempting to make his way in a community that is very clicky, and also trying to establish himself socially as a married man as well. Robinson cleverly negotiates this by linking Banks' wife Sandra to the other locals by adding her to the list of victims. We see Banks liaising and breaking the ice with his colleagues, including Superintendent Gristhorpe and Banks' subordinates Richmond and Hatchley.
Also prevalent are many issues affecting the country at the time of publication, and these sadly have not dated well, giving the book a rather old feel, particularly in terms of politics and technology. Good old fashioned leg work by the police and the use of public phones replaces the more modern conventions of mobile phones and the internet. While mobile phones were around in the late 1980s, they were few and far between, the size of bricks and unreliable. The internet didn't come into play until 1995. As such, the police are limited in their work, but so is the rest of the country, and reading this does highlight how much easier everything seems to have become, as opposed to living in an age not so long ago where you had to get up and go out to get something achieved.
Robinson's characterisation is done very well, as he eases us into the life of Alan Banks and his surroundings. You get the feeling that a number of these characters are here to stay, and in this respect we seem to have some information withheld from us by the author, but this only fuelled my thirst for the subsequent books, along with a thirst for something a bit mroe grizzly than a peeping tom case.
Politics of the 1980s does also play a part, with unemployment, women's rights and the economy at the forefront of this and indeed a couple of the subsequent Banks books, and it is interesting to see what was and what wasn't accepted on different levels 20 years ago, according to the author, and how much of everything on paper actually relates to the country at the time. The above issues are dealt with in the book and give us as readers a good insight to what life in the Dales might have been like in the late 1980s. How much of this is true and how much is the author's prerogative in his creative writing is another matter, however.
The book is very short, but again I felt this was a good thing for a debut novel. It tests the water, and does so very well. I find with subsequent Banks books that they take a while to get going as the police form a case file and go about their investigative work methodically and as fast as they can with limited technology and resources that you or I may associate with these days. I found myself liking this book immensely and, as I have already mentioned, it has spurred me on to read more of his books. I am one of those people who like to read them in sequence, and I have obtained copies of all of his books to date, withe the most recent having just come out in hardback.
As a result, I am anticipating seeing Inspector Alan Banks and his team work their way through the years and through technology as well as seeing Robinson's villains grow darker and more devious as the books continue. This is a very good, if not traditional, way to start a series of crime thrillers with a common centra character, and is one I highly recommend to any looking for a new author to sink their literary teeth into.
Gallows View is readily available from most bookshops as Peter Robinson has made a name for himself as one of the best crime thriller authors in the UK, and he has been praised by Ian Rankin and Val McDermid alike. Gallows View retails at £6.99, but is available for much cheaper from online stores such as amazon.co.uk, and it is worth having a trawl around the charity shops to pick up a second hand copy. With Christmas fast approaching, this is a good choice for a novel for someone into this genre but looking for a new author. Top stuff!
I came to this book with no expectations: I'd never heard of Peter Robinson, or of Inspector Banks, the central character. It was something I picked up on Read it Swap it ages ago and only just got round to looking at. I have to say: I was pleasantly surprised.
Gallows View is one of the gentler crime/police books available. Set in a Yorkshire town, it's nice to see a police crime thriller with a distinctly British flavour, rather than the bog standard American one, set in New York or LA. Similarly, the plot sets it apart from other novels in the genre if only because it doesn't involve the hunt for a serial killer who taunts the police. Instead, it centres around three crimes to be solved: the murder of an elderly lady, a peeping tom and a string of burglaries. As such, there's a greater air or normality about the book: firstly because the plotlines are far more everyday and mundane (in a positive, not a negative sense) and secondly, because the whole book is a more accurate reflection of police work, where resources are thinly spread across a number of incidents, not all resources devoted to solving a single murder.
Although a seemingly simpler plot, it interesting to see how these various plot strands cross over with each other: not in a twisty-turny, "look at me I can think up really complicated plots" kind of way, but, again, in a very natural fashion. Everything proceeds in the way you would expect a real police investigation to do: the various crimes throw up clues, reach dead ends and overlap into each other, creating a mild, but pleasing sense of confusion. This confusion is never mind-boggling or done for the sake of effect or dragging out the plot longer than necessary: it's there to add some colour and interest to the basic storyline.
All this is helped by the fact that Robinson has a hugely readable style. I came to this book not knowing what to expect and could scarcely put it down. He imbues his dialogue and story with such a sense of fun that it's almost impossible not to like. He writes in short chapters, which encourages you to keep on reading and regularly brings in interesting new characters or new developments to pique your interest further. It's a cracking little read. It's not particularly deep or thought provoking and it won't detain you for long - I read it in just a couple of days of light reading. However, that's its real strength - it never tries to be overly complex or heavy and remembers that a reading is supposed to be a fun pastime! It is populated by very real characters and doesn't force you to concentrate on every word. It never gets bogged down in police procedures, as some books in the genre to, but at the same time has enough information to give it an authentic feel, whilst still rattling along at a gentle, but good pace.
Robinson's characters feel like genuine people - they are complicated human beings, not cardboard cut-outs who were only created because the plot demanded them. They seem like people you and I might live next to in our own towns and cities. They are carefully nuanced characters each with their own ideas, motivations and thoughts. There are no "good" or "bad" people in this book, just people. Even most of the guilty parties, when they are finally unveiled are more to be sympathised than despised.
This gives the book a far more human element than many crime thrillers. In Gallows View, the point of the book is less about pitting your wits against the author to see if you can guess the criminals' identities before they are revealed, and more about enjoying the company of all the various characters and admiring the skilful storytelling technique which Robinson displays.
True, some people may take the opposite view - they may feel that the relatively slow pace of the book, the lack of a serial killer style villain or regular grisly murders means that the book lacks the same sense of "excitement" as some of the more lurid tales we've become used to. If you're after a more realistic read, though, it's an excellent book.
The book has also dated a little badly. It was originally written in 1987 and reflects some of the concerns of 80s Britain - high unemployment, haves and have-nots and, in particular, Women's Rights. Whilst some of these issues are still on the social agenda, they have moved on from the way they are portrayed in the book. It's here that the characters do now appear a little stereotyped. The Women's Libber, for example, is a rampant man-hater, seeing everything as designed to oppress women and every evil in the world as the fault of men. On the other side of the coin, some of the male characters are deeply misogynistic and sexist, making lewd comments about every female character. There's no doubt these attitudes existed then (and do still exist now), but they feel a little out-dated.
I think what aggravates this feeling is that there's no background information provided to any of these incidents, no sense of the bigger picture of British society at the time - Robinson is just setting the novel against the background and attitudes that were prevalent at the time he wrote it. As such, if you weren't alive then, or don't remember the 80s, you may think the attitudes and ideas of some of Robinson's characters are stupid and unrealistic and real people would never behave in such as way. Sadly, it's true: people really did used to think and talk in these ways!
Finally some people will find the plot a little too straightforward. Certainly, I had worked out the perpetrators of at least two of the crimes well before the end of the book and was fairly certain about the third. If you're a regular reader of crime novels, you're not going to find this one particularly challenging and may feel a little disappointed that you've been cheated of the opportunity to use your "little grey cells".
Despite a few minor reservations, however, I was pleasantly surprised by Gallows View. It turned out to be a fun, entertaining; undemanding read that I was able to pick up when I had some spare time and which really sucked me into its setting and its plot. I'm not alone in this either. Although this is the 1st Inspector Banks novel, there are now around 15 of them, so clearly other people feel the same way that I do! I've not yet read any of them, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for other titles in the series.
Pan Books, new edition 2002
Available from Amazon for £5.49 new or used from 75p
© SWSt 2008