Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WATCHING THE DARK by Peter Robinson

Life is never easy for Detective Chief Inspector Allen Banks, and it becomes even more complex when he’s called to investigate the murder of Detective Inspector Bill Quinn.  Not only was Quinn’s death mysterious ( it took place on the grounds of a peaceful police treatment center) but Quinn was one of their own making catching his killer all the more important to Banks.  Further an old crime still lingers in his mind - the disappearance of Rachel Hewitt, a young girl who apparently vanished one night in Tallinn, Estonia, some six years earlier.  Surely there’s no connection between the two but Banks has a hunch and for him a hunch is like an itch that must be scratched.

When some compromising photos are found in Quinn’s room the question of police corruption arises and Professional Standards becomes involved.  Representing that department is Inspector Joanna Passero who quickly becomes a thorn in Banks’s side - albeit an extremely attractive one.  He tries his best not to have her always beside him as he prefers working alone but, after all, could Quinn have possibly been a “bent cop”?

When another killing occurs the case very much looks like a giant jigsaw puzzle with minuscule pieces that must be laboriously put together.  Just as one question is answered another arises.

However, the more Banks ponders what little evidence they have the more he becomes convinced that in order to find Quinn’s killer he must first find out what happened to Rachel.  Passero could not agree with him less.  Nonetheless, the two journey to Tallinn, Estonia to see what they can find out there.  For this reader the time in Tallinn is one of the book’s best parts - it’s alive with descriptions of that dark old city and its inhabitants.

At the same time Banks’s cohort DI Annie Cabbot has returned to work after recovering from a nearly fatal injury, and her investigations take her to a migrant labor scam complete with a staffing agency and a loan shark who takes every advantage of the unfortunates who simply needed work.

As is his wont Peter Robinson superbly presents Banks, making him authentic, likable, intuitive and intelligent.  This Inspector Banks novel is a rare treat as we have an intriguing mystery plus feel very much transported to another country, which adds another dimension to the reading experience.


- Gail Cooke

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