I am a Peter Robinson addict – I think that I have read all of his books and I’ve certainly read all of the Banks novels. I’ve just completed Watching the Dark, which was one of the books that I bought during my trip to Gower Street last week.
This is Banks back on track, after what I felt was a slight dip in performance with Bad Boy. The novel is set partly in Yorkshire, partly in Tallinn, and involves a cold case murder that is reopened after an Estonian investigative journalist is found dead in a remote ruined Yorkshire farmhouse that has been used as accommodation for immigrant workers. The novel explores the vicious exploitation of guest workers by employment agencies and loan sharks, as well as highlighting the dangers to young girls of getting drunk when alone in foreign cities. The descriptions of Tallinn are evocative and convincing; in his Afterword, Robinson says that he visited the city in order to research the novel and pays tribute to several of its inhabitants who helped him.
Banks has had a chequered romantic career. Robinson has now chronicled the good years, the ultimate disintegration of his marriage to Sandra and his affairs with several other women, especially the on-off relationship with his colleague Annie Cabbot. He is possibly indicating that the Annie relationship has completely run its course by introducing a new, glamorous policewoman, Inspector Joanna Passero, in this novel. The relationship between her and Banks gets off to a rocky start and there is no sexual element to it – yet. However, the signs are there: by the end of the novel, she has confessed to him that she is worried that her (Italian) husband is being unfaithful to her. My guess is that the scene is now set for some torrid episodes with Banks in the next of the series!
I enjoyed Watching the Dark hugely. However, I have to admit that reading the Banks novels has become for me the equivalent of eating a box of chocolates – something to be devoured almost without thinking, for the sheer comforting pleasure of knowing exactly what will be delivered. Perhaps because they are so predictable, I don’t think that the latest two Banks books have come anywhere near another recent Robinson title in which Banks doesn’t feature: Before the Poison. I read this almost a year ago, and thought that it was masterly.