Gallows View by Peter Robinson
My Rating: Four Stars
The short of it: This first book in the Inspector Banks series has a straightforward plot, but is solid in character development.
The long if it:
This is the first in the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson. Chief Inspector Alan Banks and his family have just moved to Yorkshire from London and are trying to adjust to both to country life and to the Yorkshire culture. Unfortunately, things are not as quiet as Banks had hoped they would be. He soon finds himself with three cases on his hands - a Peeping Tom, a series of burglaries, and the murder of an old woman, each of which may or may not be related to the others.
Being the first book in a series, the focus is on character development. Robinson provides us with a complex, yet likeable detective. Like Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford, Banks is a family man. However, he is obliged to work with the intelligent and very attractive Jenny Fuller, a psychologist assigned to the case, and finds himself sorely tempted to have an affair with the willing Fuller. This aspect of the story is valuable to the development of Banks' character, and for us to get a better understanding of the man behind the dedicated cop. Banks also has short-lived hobbies and is currently obsessed with opera.
Robinson also paints nice pictures of Bank's wife Sandra and his boss Gristhorpe. It is very refreshing to see that Gristhorpe is a boss who seems to genuinely care about his subordinates and works hard to maintain good relations within the unit - a nice change from the often antagonistic and unpleasant superiors seen in crime fiction (Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series and Martha Grimes' Richard Jury series come to mind here).
The plot itself is not too complex or deep, but there is a nice twist at the end which makes it interesting. The book brings to mind Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series. The setting (rural Yorkshire) plays a significant role, just as Rankin's Edinburgh does. While Robinson's prose is not as captivating as Rankin's is, and Banks is not as complex or troubled as Rebus is, he is a character with promise and this book left me asking for more of him. If you are a fan of Inspector Wexford or Inspector Rebus, you may enjoy this book. If you have never heard of them, I would still recommend this book to any fan of police procedurals who enjoys becoming involved with the characters.
Quote of Note: "Screeching! Good lord, woman, this is the sound of the human spirit soaring: 'Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore.' " Banks's soprano imitation made up in volume what it lacked in melody.
Bonus: According to Peter Robinson's blog - ITV is getting ready to bring Inspector Banks to television and Stephen Tompkinson is to play Alan Banks. While I'm not too familiar with Tompkinson, he seems to have a solid resume, and can apparently "raise his right eyebrow halfway up his forehead without moving the left eyebrow" (source: IMDb).