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by Peter Robinson
Hodder & Stoughton, August 2007
432 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 034083689X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Like Ian Rankin and Reginald Hill, Peter Robinson has kept a long-running series squeaky-fresh. He never seems to run low on plots, and his characters face credible challenges both personally and professionally each time we meet them.

This time out DCI Alan Banks and DI Annie Cabbot are working apart. Banks is trying to solve the murder of a teenager who is found dead in a dingy room down The Maze, the narrow passageways that criss-cross Eastvale town centre.

Annie, meanwhile, has been packed off to Whitby to cover for sick and absent colleagues. She has to find who took a wheelchair-bound woman onto a clifftop and cut her throat. And she's just done something incredibly stupid in her private life that looks like it will return to haunt her.

Robinson has always managed to juggle strong plotting with just enough private life strands that you don't feel angsted out. In many ways not much changes for Banks, who is long divorced, slowly getting his cottage back together after it was set on fire, but always faintly dissatisfied about his love life, or lack of it!

The series has always made good use of the supporting cast of colleagues, and this time out DC Winsome Jackman and DS Kev Templeton take key roles – and both provide grit in the usually smooth Eastvale mill.

Robinson pulls off some very spooky scenes that had me twitching uneasily in an uncannily quiet hotel room! The atmosphere of the Maze is well done, as is the horrible discovery on the clifftop.

He does use that old genre cliché of the cops having to look back at past cases, but this time it's convincing. I was fairly certain I knew who'd done it, but you won't spot it via the clues – a small weak link is Banks's not terribly convincing leap of logic to work out whodunit! And thus the ending is painful but not as frightening as you might expect.

Oh, and there are the now usual couple of Brit slips from a writer who's obviously been away from home for a while – Banks's musician son Brian would have to be in his 30s to have gone to a polytechnic (these all became universities in 1992) and the nit nurse (who checked schoolkids for head lice!) has been gone from UK schools for getting on for ten years.

But we are splitting hairs, so to speak! FRIEND OF THE DEVIL is an outstanding piece of writing and a rock-solid addition to a must-read series.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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