Peter Robinson and the “Inspector Banks” Novels

Sunday, January 30, 2022

It’s been quite a while since I mentioned reading any novels in the “detective/mystery” genre, in part because it’s been many years since I’ve picked up one. A couple years ago, though, Paul Vangelisti not only recommended a specific writer, but sent me three of his novels. I found the first half of the first novel in Gallows View, in his Inspector Banks’ series, to be workmanlike and efficient, but not particularly outstanding. It felt like the opening moves of a chess game by someone who knew that an audacious move was in the works, and it had to be made on very firm footing. Indeed, a scene in which a “peeping tom” voyeur has an orgasm turns out to be the moment when the rhythm of the prose ticks up several notches and by the end of the novel, I knew that the other books by Robinson would definitely be worth reading.

However, I somehow had misplaced the other two novels, and it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I found them at the tail end of a book case shelf close enough to the floor to evade casual attention. I have started both of them, in tiny increments at the end of long days, not just to make up for lost time, but as a bedtime distraction from thoughts of a very dear brother-in-law, who is currently hospitalized after suffering a major heart attack. Robinson’s books give me considerable solace, though I don’t know that I would as of yet consider him the equal of P.D. James, which is the claim made in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch cited in the prefatory blurbs of A Necessary End. James was a great novelist who worked in the “detective/mystery” genre. To limit her accomplishment to a genre is an enormous error. Based on the opening books of this series, I would say however that if anyone has the potential to be her equal, it is Robinson. I will keep his books right alongside those of Joseph Hansen, a poet and novelist whose work I wrote about in an essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

James. Hansen. Robinson.

A trio for all of us to keep in mind as we endure tumultuous oscillations both in our daily lives and in the stupefying selfishness of nationalistic world powers.

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