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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Gallows View

Reviewed: June 11, 2004
By: Peter Robinson
Publisher: Penguin Books
240 pages, $10.99

Gallows View is the very first of the Inspector Banks mysteries, and it has a different flavour than the later books in the series. If I had to categorize Robinson's work, I'd say that this early novel, at least, is a bit like A&E's Midsommer Murders series, while the later books seem a bit more like Inspector Morse. This is a very rough comparison of course, and I'm sure I'll find it totally inadequate after I've read a bit more at both ends of the series.

For reasons not given in any detail, the Banks family has relocated from London to Yorkshire, to the town of Eastvale. There's Alan, his wife, Sandra, and a couple of kids named Brian and Tracy who barely put in an appearance in this book, and then mostly when objecting to their dad's latest obsession, which happens to be opera. I can't blame them myself.

There are three mysteries to be solved here. The least serious seems to be a series of Peeping Tom incidents which have been upsetting the neighbourhood and have brought down the wrath of a local feminist group on the Eastvale constabulary.

Somewhat more serious is the rash of break and enters that seems to have taken the town by storm. These become more serious as the perpetrators (a pair of teenaged boys) become more daring and more violent.

Finally, there is a murder - perhaps an accidental killing, but the poor old lady is dead all the same. Is it connected with either of the other problems? That's the question.

We are kept in the dark on two of these mysteries until near the end of the story, but we know about the boys and spend some time with them as the book proceeds.

It might be said that the story ends a little too tidily for real life, but then detective stories are about imposing order on the chaotic universe, aren't they?

We can see the seeds of the conflict which will eventually drive Alan and Sandra apart even in this book. Alan is tempted by the proximity of the attractive psychiatrist who is working with him on the Peeper case. He resists temptation, but feels it nonetheless.

I'm happy to note that Robinson is a transplanted Brit who has developed into a fine writer while living and teaching here in Canada. He may write about Yorkshire, but he does it from Toronto. I'm also happy to note that there are at least another eight or so books in the series that I haven't read yet.

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