Sunday, May 17, 2015

Children of the Revolution

Crossing the pond, I dipped a tentative toe into the pool of books-about-detectives-whom-I've-seen-on-the-telly with Inspector Alan Banks of "Inspector Banks" fame.  It will not surprise anyone when I say that I love love love British telly mysteries.  I think their adaptations of the many series that make  British crime fiction so great are just wonderful - think of Inspector Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour, Wallander, George Gently, Foyle's War, Broadchurch, Death in Paradise, the new Sherlock, those marvelous Poirots with David Suchet, heck I'd even throw in Father Brown.  OK, I am mixing in some that didn't start as books but you get the point.  I'll watch any old Brit myst at least once and probably more.  My DVR is packed with 'em.

But to Banks.  Our Hero here is DCI Alan Banks, of Yorkshire, who, you know, like all the others, solves crimes.  Sometimes they are pretty nasty crimes, and the point of that in all of these is to show that bad things lurk even in these charming wee villages or ancient cities or stunning country landscapes.  Here in the Yorkshire setting of Children of the Revolution (2014, William Morrow but probably earlier and called something different in actual England), we get a fair amount of moors and a whole lot of rain.  It rains on an off pretty much this entire book.  The premise is straightforward:  a loser-kind-of-fellow is found dead, and while everyone would like to think it was suicide because he had never recovered from losing his job as a college lecturer, and was in debt and poor health, it is pretty obvious that he didn't do himself in.  The 5,000 pounds found on him would also indicate otherwise.  So Banks and his colleagues, with at least one of whom he has a complex relationship, must investigate.

The investigation is straightforward:  the coppers look into the deceased's past, make connections to the present, get warned off, find other connections, and eventually solve the crime in a violent scene in the driving rain.  The plot develops skillfully, with no ridiculous revelations or hidden secrets (although Banks favors the "I think I know what happened but why don't you tell me" approach to questioning suspects, implying that it will come out eventually and it will go better for you if you tell me now).  Mostly things are sorted out by talking, and research, rather than fisticuffs.  The writing here is also entirely serviceable, which is to say, it doesn't distract (that is good).  And there are occasional scenes that will make you wish to be in England, with moody clouds lowering over bleak moors and rain lashing the greenhouse roof, that sort of thing.  As you can tell, I like this, it was a mildly diverting read, but it didn't grip.  That said, I suspect there is more to author Peter Robinson than comes across in one reading.

I didn't expect the Banks-of-the-book to be quite as enthralling as the show, and that was exactly the case.  Somehow when a character is written as a thoughtful divorced man who has a deep knowledge of music and wine and sits around drinking the later while listening to the former and reading case files, it feels a bit obvious, or maybe too good to be true is another way to think about it.  I'd certainly pick up another Banks story, although it would have to get in line behind the many others piled up next to the tub.  Perhaps I was misled by whatever blog or article suggest I start with this one, which is about the 20th in the series!  Note to self:  stop jumping in to series in the middle, it doesn't serve them well.


  1. Hi there ... splendid spatula! came across your blog thru a google search on Ragtime in Simla. Love the crime genre and am always on the lookout for a good read. So will be following your blog closely. Happy reading and blogging!