Friend of the Devil
Reviewed: June 26, 2009
By: Peter Robinson
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
432 pages, $11.00
One of the confusing things about jumping into the middle of a series is keeping
the relationships straight. Somewhere along the track of the Alan Banks series
he and Annie Cabot have a romantic relationship that doesn’t work out
well, and while they still have a fairly solid working relationship as detectives
after that, there is an awkwardness between them.
My problem is that I’m reading books from both before and after that event,
and I’ve not encountered the pivot yet. In the early books Banks is married.
The family doesn’t play a big part in the stories, but there’s no
serious signs of trouble yet. In the later books, Alan has a few almost flings,
but Annie’s always there, so to speak.
In fact, many of the later books could really be called Banks/Cabot mysteries,
since they often work together and seem to get about equal time in the division
of point on view chapters. That’s certainly the case with this novel,
the 17th in the series and just two away from being right up to date.
The book opens with a two murders and a personal crisis. The first murder scene,
at the edge o a cliff overlooking the sea, is actually given to us from the
point of view of an inquisitive seagull and it’s only the grisly last
six words of that paragraph that make us realize what’s happened.
The second is a more standard affair which ruins Detective Chief Inspector Alan
Banks’ plans for a peaceful Sunday. The body of the young girl was found
in small storage building within a narrow lane in the business district of Eastvale.
It was a case of rape and murder, and there were very few clues.
The personal crisis is that Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot finds herself waking
up in a strange bed with a man who is quite a bit younger than she is whose
name she does not know, after a night that she does not remember. I’ve
noted before that police officers in English procedurals seem to drink more
than can possibly be healthy for them. It’s probably a good sign that
Annie is panicked by this turn of events, Blackouts are just not good news.
Before she has much chance to absorb this, she gets a call to go see the body
on the cliff.
There does not seem to be an immediate connection between the two crimes. Annie
is currently on loan to another division, so the two crimes are not even in
the same district.
Annie’s investigations are complicated by the fact that the dead woman
on the cliff has been living in a home for the severely disabled under an assumed
name. Due to an accident she looks much older than she is and she is not who
she appears to be. The solution to her killing is to be found in her past, in
a case that both Cabbot and Banks were involved in about six years earlier (and
in a book I haven’t read yet).
So a good portion of this novel is spent unravelling the clues that lead to
the true identity of the murdered woman and just what that might mean in terms
of a motive for killing her.
Meanwhile, Banks is stuck trying to figure out how anyone could have got in
and out of that narrow lane without being caught by the ubiquitous closed circuit
television cameras that seem to be everywhere in England. There are some possible
motives for the death of the young woman, Hayley Daniels, but none of them seem
to pan out, and it’s only after another death in the same alley, one with
similarities to Annie’s case, that the two detective realize there has
to be a connection. At this point the case is made more urgent by the fact that
the second victim is a member of Banks’ team.
Banks and Cabbot might have realized the connection a bit sooner except that
Annie is being stalked by the young man of the one-night-stand and she’s
too embarrassed by the whole thing to be comfortable around Banks, her former
lover. They are used to bouncing ideas off each other and often come up with
solutions in this way, so the strain s professional as well as personal.
As with many of Robinson’s novels the climax comes swiftly and suddenly.
This time there was some key information withheld, but Annie didn’t have
it either until she already reached a solution via another line of thought,
so it wasn’t cheating on Robinson’s part.
Annie’s reaction to the events of the final chapter is quite human and
touching. We see that a relationship has been repaired, although other events
in the story tell us that we have no idea where it will go next.
Now I have to decide which end of Banks’ life to read about next.