I've said it before and I'll say it again - if Peter Robinson's name is on it, I know I'm in for a good read. I enjoyed last year's stand alone novel - Before the Poison. (Winner of the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel by the Crime Writers of Canada) (my review) But, I've waiting for the latest installment in Robinson's Inspector Banks series. And it's here! Watching the Dark is the 20th entry in this wonderful series.
Watching the Dark opens at the St. Peter's Police Treatment Centre. Annie Cabot has just left the centre, finally ready to return to work after a lengthy convalescence. So, Alan Banks is familiar with the centre, but didn't expect to be working a case there. Bill Reid, a fellow officer has been murdered on the grounds - by a crossbow. On searching Reid's room, photos of a compromising nature are found. Banks is determined to not judge until his investigation is complete, but Inspector Joanna Passero from Professional Standards (internal investigations) is brought in to 'help' Banks with his inquiries. As Banks digs into Reid's past, he wonders if a cold case of Reid's could be tied to his death.
Robinson takes us out of Eastvale with Banks' investigation and into Estonia. I must admit, I truly had no firm grasp on this country but Robinson did a great job of setting the stage with detailed descriptions and characters. I was surprised to learn that English stag and hen parties take cheap flights over for weekend parties.
I was glad to see Annie Cabot back on the job. She's out to prove herself after being injured and off the job for so long, so she delves into the case with dogged determination. Her investigations keep her in Eastvale, but dealing with the ugly underbelly of this bucolic Yorkshire countryside. She is following the tracks of migrant workers tricked and abused by local criminals. Her storyline takes the stage almost as much as Banks's in this book. That's a good thing, as she's a character I quite enjoy.
Inspector Passero was an interesting addition. I was never really sure of her agenda and Robinson keeps us guessing until the very last chapters. And, I'm still not sure if we really know her - I think she'll make an appearance in the next book, but I'll reserve judgment until then.
I've always enjoyed Banks's love of music and the references to what he's listening to. However it seemed like there were quite a few this time - enough that I found myself skimming over some of these passages.
Robinson has crafted a multi faceted, well paced plot that takes inspiration from current day issues. I did find the end to be tied up a bit too neatly, but all in all it was a read I quite enjoyed. And I'll be waiting for the 21st book!
Read an excerpt of Watching the Dark. You can find Robinson on Facebook