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by Peter Robinson
McClelland & Stewart, October 2014
384 pages
$29.95 CAD
ISBN: 0771076428

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

By the time Alan Banks has returned from a brief holiday in Umbria (note: not Cumbria), his Eastvale major crimes team is investigating a crime which might seem somewhat less than major - the theft of a tractor. But the new police commissioner believes that rural crime is major crime and so DI Annie Cabbot and DC Doug Wilson, who bears a distinct resemblance to Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, have to pull on the wellies and tramp through the mud to investigate. At the same time, DS Winsome Jackman is looking into a report of bloodstains in an abandoned WWII hangar, discovered by someone out walking his dog. Both events seem relatively trivial at the outset, but they will prove to be both linked and well worth Major Crimes' attention.

It is an investigation that will prove hard on Annie Cabbot's stomach. First a rocky chopper trip to a difficult accident scene will require her liberal use of the sick bag provided. Then poor vegetarian Annie will later have to make a number of visits to a sickening series of abattoirs, which further confirms her in her vegetarian convictions.

Banks himself, while central to the complex plot the way a spine is central to a body, is not especially featured as a character. He is certainly the head of his team and respected by them; he is tougher, perhaps more truculent than I remember him being in some earlier appearances, but this time at least Robinson's interest is less in the details of Banks's personal life than in his work as a senior police officer. For personal character development, the author turns to the two female members of the team, Winsome and Annie. He launches the first in the direction of a long over-due romantic attachment; the latter toward regaining some of her compassion that has been in short supply for a while now.

It is these two who make most of the running in the final chapters - Annie through the slaughterhouses, Winsome, an experienced caver, through the caves that underlie the hilly countryside. Both venues are vividly described, both in their different ways supply more than enough tension to keep the reader going well past bedtime.

In the last several novels in the series, Banks has struck me as a bit restless, wandering either geographically or in time to get away from Eastvale if he can. This time out, his return plants him solidly in the Dales, where he finds that even rural crime can have international dimensions. All in all, it's a most satisfying return indeed.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, October 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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