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AFTERMATH
by Peter Robinson
William Morrow & Co., August 2001
400 pages
$25.00
ISBN: 0380978326


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This stunning story begins where most crime novels end, with the exposing of a murderer. The police, answering a routine domestic disturbance call, find the wife unconscious inside the front door and the dead body of a missing teenager in the basement. Then the husband attacks them with a machete, killing one policeman. The other, a woman, defends herself with her baton, using perhaps more force than necessary, and handcuffs him to a pipe until help arrives.

The police are certain that the man, Terence Payne, was the murderer of the teenage girl and possibly a serial rapist as well. More bodies are discovered in the basement and on the grounds and it seems he was a serial murderer. But was he truly the guilty one? What about his wife, Lucy Payne? Her childhood contained horrendous acts which easily could have driven her to violence. And P.C.Taylor, who hit Payne so hard that he ultimately died, may be arrested and tried for manslaughter. All of these investigations keep Alan Banks very busy, so busy that he thinks he may be out of his depth and for the first time wonders whether it is time to retire. He has personal problems as well since his wife has left

him for another man and is now pregnant by that man.

Yes, this is another book about a serial killer, but from such a completely novel angle that it is fresh and stimulating, not a rehash of dozens of other books along the same line. And, yes, there is a great deal of violence sporadically detailed throughout the book. The violence is not gratuitous and, I think, is there so that the reader will be forced to think about contemporary society and the sorts of things we allow and do not allow. Some readers may not wish to be pushed into thinking about these things and that is their right. They will probably not want to read this book.

This is a world, like the one we live in, where there are no blacks and whites, only grays. No one, not even Inspector Banks, is totally innocent and while the murderer is guilty, there are circumstances and factors that mitigate although they do not excuse what was done. There are monsters in this book, monsters that look and act like you and I, monsters that seem so pleasant that we find it impossible to believe they could be so evil. But ever so it seems to be with serial killers. There are always neighbors to tell us that the killer seemed such an ordinary decent person. Evil wears many faces and few of them give away that malignancy.

The writing in this book is exquisite. Robinson is a master of the English language and it is a pure pleasure to read anything he has written. The characters are well-developed and authentic. The plotting is well-done also and the result is a complex, multi-layered story that enfolds numerous subplots. Robinson has managed to put the reader into Yorkshire so completely that it is hard to believe that he does not still live there.

All told, I found this a compelling book. Robinson puts a face on evil and it is, sometimes, a banal face. He shows a sympathy for the helpless and an understanding of the weaknesses we all have. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, November 2001

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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