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Wednesday's Child is the 7th book in the popular Inspector Banks series. Banks novels tend to take a slightly different approach to much modern police fiction. Rather than being set in large cities, featuring psychopathic serial killers and a body count in double figures, they are set in the North Yorkshire Dales and often feature just a single murder victim. Arguably, they are all the better for it.
Having said that, Wednesday's Child is a little different and features two different plots. In the first, a young girl is taken from her home by a man and a woman pretending to be social workers. Meanwhile, a man is found brutally murdered and hidden in an old mine shaft. Initially separate incidents, the two cases slowly come together.
The Banks books are always fun to read. The gentler pace and lower body count is a welcome antidote to the murderous mayhem of much modern detective fiction. Wednesday's Child is no exception, proving an interesting and well-crafted story that will tempt you to keep reading long after you have vowed to stop. It's packed with interesting characters and realistic situations, so that it feels more like a "proper" police investigation than a thriller designed to titillate.
Much of the appeal of the books comes from this slower pace. I'm sure police officers would argue, but it feels like a more realistic portrayal of police work. Cases are solved through sheer hard work, talking to people to glean more and more information and slowly starting to connections between what is being said. Unlike many thrillers, it is not based on blind luck, unlikely coincidences, or chance conversations that crack the whole case wide open.
Having said that, I never felt quite as engaged with Wednesday's Child as previous Peter Robinson efforts. It's interesting enough and the plotting and writing are perfectly acceptable. However, it didn't draw me in as much as previous entries. I didn't care as much about the characters or the outcome (since I knew that Banks would get his man in the end). It wasn't bad; merely mediocre.
Normally when reading murder mysteries, I like to try and guess who did it, to pit my wits against the author and the characters to see if I can solve the mystery before they can. With Wednesday's Child, I took a much more passive role; happy to sit and wait to see how the story unfolds, rather than work it all out for myself.
There was a need with Wednesday's Child to have read previous books in the series (not always essential with the earlier titles). Robinson has started to build up a regular cast of characters and refers back to some of their previous cases. Increasingly, it's assumed that readers will know about these and no explanation is provided. This is not an issue (I think it's fair enough to assume that if someone is reading the seventh book in a series, they are going to have read earlier titles). Moreover it means Robinson doesn't have to constantly repeat information from earlier books, which could have been annoying.
A real issue with the book was the incredibly poor quality of the paper in the paperback edition. In fairness, this is more a criticism of the publisher than the book itself, but it did actually impact on my enjoyment. The paper is so incredibly thin that it is almost impossible to turn just a single page. I lost count of the number of times I turned a page, only to discover (on resuming reading) that the new page didn't make sense because I had accidentally turned two pages instead of one. When that happens a couple of times, it's mildly inconvenient; when it happens dozens of times, it becomes incredibly annoying. I appreciate that publishers use lower grade paper to keep costs down, but there's something wrong when it starts to impair the reader's enjoyment!
Despite only giving this three stars, I wouldn't want you to run away with the idea that it's a rubbish book - it's perfectly serviceable and entertaining; just not as good as previous books. It's certainly not put me off the Banks series and I'm looking forward to reading the next one - I just hope it has more in common with earlier titles than this one.
Pan, New Edition, 2002
© Copyright SWSt 2013
The Inspector Banks books written by Peter Robinson have become one of my favourite crime fiction series out of all the ones I have read. Each book is as well developed as the last and as I never seem to be able to pick them up in chronological order, I'm glad that you can read the series in any order really as the stories never really carry on from the last book. Wednesday's Child is no exception to this, and I think it is the 6th in the Inspector Banks series.
It can be found in Waterstones at around £7.99, however I have been able to find it on Amazon for around £2 including postage. Yet, I also have seen this in different libraries or the occassional charity shop so there might be a chance you could find it there.
Robinson's writing has always been high quality in all of his novels, as his stories never stray from reality and the crimes that people commit within his novels, you could almost imagine hearing about them in newspapers. Robinsons manages to create a dark and twisted plotline, however at the same time he does manage to at some parts look at the other emotion side of the story, as some of the smaller chapters look at the abducted child's mother and Bank's own family life.
The plotline itself begins by focusing on the abduction of a child called Gemma by a man and woman posing to be social service workers. Superintendent Gristhorpe takes the main lead here, which was a nice addition as I hadn't really known much about his character and Robinson did look at cases from the intendents past which showed why Gemma's case had such a personal interest to him.
However, while this case is going on, a man turns up at an abandoned mine murdered, and DC Banks takes charge of this case, determined to find the killer. The story takes many twists and turns, when you think they've finally found the killer or abductor, it turns out they haven't and it's like being reverted back to square one.
Both the cases continue, and as they go along it seems that both have a lot of strange similarities and it appears that there is a connection between them. Eventually the two teams begin working together as they realise that there is a strong possibility both these crimes are connected. With the two cases merging together, it almost seems like I liked this in the book as it did keep me reading as any guesses you make can never be for certain in Robinson's writing.
Familiar readers of the Banks series will like the fact that Robinson does talk about previous characters that those have got accustomed to within the books. We get to learn more about Banks and his personal life with wife Sandra and children Brian and Tracy. I thought this was a nice touch as for some crime fiction it's just so focused on the criminal you never really get to learn about the men who catch the criminal at the end of the day.
The book definitely is well written, as Robinson did not try and make it too dark, too detailed with all the police work and too emotion driven. The pace didn't slow down at all throughout the book and was not too overloaded with the long police work it takes to catch killers like this, as Robinson manages to make it so that something is always being revealed or discovered in whatever chapter you read.
I would definitely consider recommending this to a friend who is interested in crime fiction, whether they have read both the previous books or are interested simply in a thrilling crime fiction novel. Robinson is a great writer who definitely knows how to write a book to keep his audience entertained and reading till the very end.
In my opinion, I thought was just the right balance for this novel, as he mixed both a twisted storyline dotted with some emotional sections with some interesting police details and findings, for a read that will keep everyone interested and immersed in finding just who committed this crime. Robinson has written another great addition to the Inspector Banks series.
Wednesday's Child is the seventh of Peter Robinson's novels to be published, and the sixth in the Inspector Banks series, with his stand alone novel, Caedmon's Song, being the only book to not feature the Yorkshire Detective from London. The previous five books have varied sufficiently to keep me interested as a reader and not feel like I'm reading the same thing over and over again, and the subject matter and plot details have often been very dark and disturbing.
But none more so than this book, which deals with child abduction amongst other things. I have attempted to ignore current situations in the country with child abduction and the reasons people do it - it escapes me, completely. In fiction, I attempt to appreciate the skill involved in creating a novel, a story, and think about the fact that it is all made up as opposed to reality, and I always see the mark of a good author when the book starts to seep into reality in mind's eye.
Wednesday's Child does just that, with its clever characterisation and the use of the subject matter and location to heighten the angst felt in the book by some of the characters. Robinson takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions for a number of different characters as Brenda Scupham calls the police to her house following the adbuction of her seven year old daughter Gemma by a man and a woman who had claimed to be from social services and were taking her daughter away from her. No sooner has the case begun to search for the couple and for Gemma than a murdered man turns up on the moors, and with the two cases seeming to be unrelated, the force are divided, with Inspector Alan Banks, Robinson's 'hero', taking the murder case, and Banks' superior, Superintendent Gristhorpe, handling the missing child case.
This turns out to have personal interest for Gristhorpe as Robinson takes the chance to develop his character a bit further than he has done in the previous five books. Robinson has slowly but surely given us a good feel of Banks and the people in and around his life, at home and on the job, but Gristhorpe has always remained just out of the picture, a superior that doesn't get involved. Now, however, we learn that, as a young constable, Gristhorpe was involved in the search for the missing children in the Moors Murderers case, thus making a link between Robinson's fiction and our reality.
As the detection continues and the leads soon peter out, good old police work and some solid sleuthing from Banks, Gristhorpe and their teams, soon reveals that the two cases could possibly be linked, but as the search for Gemma goes on, as does that for the culprit in the murder case. There are a lot of coincidences floating about, and before long, the two teams find themselves attempting to solve a double crime together in the notion that they are related.
Robinson deals very well with what could be potentially harrowing material, and he thankfully does so in a very tasteful manner. The focus is mainly on the police work and the foot slog that the clues take them on as opposed to the endless possibilities of what could have happened. The characterisation is the forte in this tale, and after six books, I now have a very good feel not just for Bsnks and his colleagues, but also for a number of local inhabitants and Banks' family, occasional helpers to the police, and some of the usual suspects who keep popping up.
My mum is currently reading the books as well, and although they are mine (he says indignantly) she is currently just ahead of me, and as a result I now have to wait to read the next Banks book. Perhaps this is a good chance to read something of a lighter nature before returning to the dark and intensely clever writing of Robinson and his praiseworthy Inspector Alan Banks. Either way, I wait with a fervent passion to read the seventh book in the series. The stories are getting better!
Wednesday's Child retails at £6.99, but is available for much cheaper if you're willing to look. Charity shops are likely to offer the best prices, but there is no guarantee of finding the book. Alternatively, have a look online, as I'm sure you will be able to find this for much cheaper than its recommended retail price.