Smokey the Cat
Peter Robinson

Sixty seconds with Peter Robinson...

Peter Robinson, Yorkshire-born but also lived in Canada, was the author of the highly-successful DCI Alan Banks series. The series ran to 28 novels and the last, STANDING IN THE SHADOWS. was published this month. Peter died last October at the age of 72.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Robinson: Succinct.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Robinson: None. Because if I took my favourite, I would soon grow to hate it, and why take something I hate to start with?

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Robinson: A spy.

Anthony Bidulka

Sixty seconds with Anthony Bidulka...

Thomas Mullen

Sixty seconds with Thomas Mullen...

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April 30 2023

I'm not sure if April actually is the cruellest month but it's been pretty much cold and wet around here lately, which has been kind to the crocuses but disappointing otherwise. It's been good for reading, however. Here's what we've been looking at:

But first, we must begin on a sad note. Over the years, we've run over forty reviews of Peter Robinson's books. This month, we must run what is probably the last as the final installment in the career of Inspector Banks, STANDING IN THE SHADOWS, has just been published, sadly some months after its author died. It is a worthy conclusion to a remarkable series but even as I read and admired it I was saddened to think that Banks' career has come to an end. Both Peter and his Inspector will be sorely missed.

Dennis Lehane continues his evocation of organized crime in Boston in SMALL MERCIES. This time he focusses on the gangs' intersection with the resistance of South Boston's white residents to the mandatory busing of their children to achieve school desegregation in the early 1970s. Rebecca Nesvet calls this Lehane's strongest novel yet. Racism is a concern as well in Janelle M. Williams' GONE LIKE YESTERDAY, which opens in 2019 but investigates an elusive past. Rebecca says this "epic and insistent first novel is both powerful and engrossing."

Cathy Downs was less enthusiastic about another first novel, Alice Slater's DEATH OF A BOOKSELLER, set in contemporary London. With characters immersed in the darker side of the mind Cathy felt that it ignored relevant social challenges to life in the present century in a large city. Meredith Frazier was also a bit put off by the universally unpleasant characters in Flora Collins' A SMALL AFFAIR but in the end concludes that "watching all the darkness rise to the surface and how all these unlikeable people interact" is worth staying around for.

Summer is coming and perhaps with it a long drive to a holiday spot. That's when audio books can be very attractive and Sharon Mensing would recommend THE SOULMATE by Sally Hepworth as an excellent choice. She thought the writing was very strong and the plotting attractively complex. Once you get to your destination, you might want to open Tasha Alexander's SECRETS OF THE NILE, the latest in the Lady Emily series. Meredith Frazier enjoyed this homage to the Golden Age, saying it's primarily an entertaining puzzle and a bit of escapism and we can all use some of that.

Jim Napier admits he regretted it when Barbara Fradkin left her Ottawa-based series starring Inspector Green to follow Amanda Doucette on her recovery journey across Canada but he came to admire this series as well. But now Amanda is in British Columbia on the coast and perhaps at the end of her journey. Jim says that WRECK BAY displays the same captivating plot, interesting characters, and diverse Canadian settings of the earlier books and hopes that Fradkin will continue the series in some way.

When Tony Hillerman died, his daughter Anne picked up the threads of his Leaphorn & Chee series and has now added number eight to her father's previous eighteen. Sharon Mensing says that THE WAY OF THE BEAR, with its emphasis on Chee's wife, could easily serve as an entry point to the series for those who have yet to make its acquaintance. Sharon also admired another book that conveys the beauty and mystery of the back country, James McLaughlin's PANTHER GAP, set in Colorado. A brief description might make this sound like just a fast-paced thriller, but Sharon says that the author invites us to think a lot more deeply than that.

Real estate has been on a lot of our minds lately, given the state of the market. If you have had it with current conditions you might find some satisfaction in Sharon Strohmeyer's WE LOVE TO ENTERTAIN YOU. Rebecca reports that if you like comedy or loathe real estate you'll love WE LOVE.

There are two murders in Lauren Elliot's Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery, DEDICATION TO MURDER, separated by seventy years. Ruth Castleberry enjoyed both the clever use of different time periods and the developments in the on-going characters in the series.

Finally, to mark the passing of another giant of crime fiction, Anne Perry, we are reprinting Anne Corey's 2012 review of Perry's A SUNLESS SEA, one of her favourites.

Peter Robinson was a very early contributor to our Sixty Seconds with... feature and we thought you might like to read what he said back then, whenever that was.

And there you have it. We'll be back next month with more reports on what we've been reading and would like to hear from you about what you think about it all. Until then, stay warm and well and happily supplied with something good to read.

The Editors:

Yvonne Klein

Rebecca Nesvet

P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

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