A Dedicated Man: An Inspector Banks mystery
Reviewed: October 19, 2005
By: Peter Robinson
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
272 pages, $9.99
Bodies are discovered in a number of
places in this, the second mystery in the Inspector Banks series. The first
body pops out of a stone wall while a local farmer in Helmthorpe is making
a few repairs. Harry Steadman, the dead man, is a former professor of archeology
who inherited a fortune and has been using it to follow up his professional
interests. He and his wife retired to Helmsthorpe, and he had been indulging
his passion for Roman ruins ever since.
Harry was a lovely fellow. Everyone
says so: his wife, his writing partner, the local doctor, the mystery writer,
the folk singer, all the guys at the pub and not a few former university colleagues.
All of which begs the question of why anyone would want to kill him and stuff
him in a stone wall.
All of the folk Iíve mentioned so far
are suspects, of course, and one of them gets nervous when a local high school
girl with delusions of adulthood thinks she knows something and shares it
with the wrong person. Her body was supposed to stay hidden a bit longer,
but high water in the local creek washed it up under a bridge.
As she was one of our viewpoint characters
in this layered narrative, Sallyís demise actually does matter to us and turns
up the temperature under the plot a bit.
While we know that Alan Banksí marriage
will eventually fall apart, this second book doesnít show too many signs of
strain. When I read A Gallows View I found the family references to
be perfunctory, but there was more home life showing in this installment,
and the family seemed like it could be salvaged.
Banks is still adjusting to rural life
after spending his earlier career in London, and some people canít understand
why he would have left the Smoke for the boondocks. The way things are going
for him, heís wondering if the rural life is really any more peaceful than
the mess he left behind.
These mysteries arenít exactly police
procedural novels. Aside from the fact that he has aides to do some of the
legwork for him and can call in the forensics crew to catalogue the physical
evidence, Banks is pretty much a people person, and his path to a solution
isnít a lot different than the one that would be taken by Miss Marple. Although
the murdered man is the fellow referred to in the title, it takes another
dedicated man to bring his murder to justice.
Robinson writes good stuff though,
and Iím looking forward to my next foray into the wilds of Eastvale.