A late-night call from a brother who’s practically a stranger sends Alan Banks back to another round of soul-searching and skeleton-rattling.
Chief Inspector Banks misses the call because following the loss of his cottage to an arsonist (Playing with Fire, 2004), he’s out drinking and extending a dinner invitation that’s shot down. The message he gets instead from his dodgy brother Roy is both urgent and vague: You’re the only one who can help me in what could be a matter of life or death, so call me. When Roy doesn’t answer his phone, Banks decides to use his vacation to track him down. He breaks into Roy’s posh home in Kensington, rifles his papers, and searches his computer as if Roy were a particularly vicious criminal, but gets nowhere. Meanwhile, Banks’s colleagues back in North Yorkshire Major Crimes have their own case: the shooting of Jennifer Clewes, administrative director at a women’s health center who was carrying Banks’s address in her pocket. Clearly the two riddles are connected, but fans of Robinson’s acclaimed series won’t expect any special ingenuity in linking them up. A keener disappointment is the absence of any new characters as interesting as Banks and his squad, whose ever-changing relationships provide not only the usual sharp vignettes but much of the momentum you’d expect from the mystery.
Below Robinson’s high average, then, though he’s always worth reading.