Underneath all the endless complications, Detective Inspector Alan Banks’s behemoth 13th appearance is a case of two dead boys. DNA evidence, directed by some smart forensics, identifies the first as Graham Marshall, a childhood friend of Banks’s who went missing from his Yorkshire newspaper route 35 years ago. Hearing that his skeletal remains have been found, Banks hastens home from the Greek island where he’d retreated to blot out the memory of his last sour adventure in crime and romance (Aftermath, 2001) to Peterborough, where he finds the local constabulary eyeing his long-withheld revelation—Banks himself had been attacked and nearly drowned by an unidentified stranger two months before Graham went missing—with suspicion and a present-day case unfolding in ways that disturbingly echo the past. The new Graham is Luke Armitage, a sensitive student whose famous mother, retired model Robin Fetherling, and equally famous stepfather, ex–soccer player Martin Armitage, have never helped him come to terms with his own father, a rock star whose life ended in suicide. Haunted by constant reminders of the past he shared with Graham, Banks joins forces (and eventually much more) with Inspector Michelle Hart, unearthing a murky pattern that threatens to swallow every finely limned survivor of the Swinging Sixties, along with some who didn’t survive.
Robinson unites P.D. James’s strengths—breadth, ambition, and an olympian penetration into character—with some of her equally characteristic weaknesses: a tendency to sprawl and a ritual reluctance to tie all those wonderfully woven threads together.