The Hanging Valley

Reviewed: April 15, 2009
By: Peter Robinson
Publisher: Penguin Canada
272 pages, $18.00

When reaching back into the past to read the first of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels I noted that there was some similarity between those and Peter Robinson’s Alan Banks mysteries, which made me want to read another early Banks’ novel to check that out.

The Hanging Valley is the fourth in that series, and shows clearly what the early differences were. Banks stories are not confined to a particular city or town, but range all over the Yorkshire region. In this case Banks has a murder in a somewhat isolated village to investigate, and it turns out that the solution ties into another murder that was committed some years earlier.

Banks seems to be an altogether nicer person than the deeply troubled Rebus. His demons are more manageable and less likely to be drowned in too much alcohol, though there is a great deal more drinking than would seem wise for someone in that line of work.

Banks is still married in this book, but it is increasingly clear that the author can’t quite figure out how to work in the family bits. There aren’t any obvious cracks in the marriage, but I’m not surprised to know that there’s a divorce in Banks’ future.

A nice touch in this story is that the Canadian based author of British mysteries causes his character to take a trip to Toronto in order to follow up some clues in the case at hand.

While I was pretty certain who the villain of this piece would turn out to be, I completely gobsmacked by the way the climax played out. My first reaction was that it came too quickly, but I read it again and decided that it was, in fact, just right.