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Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson

Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson Peter Robinson is back, stronger than ever, with a new Inspector Banks novel Watching the Dark. Watching the Dark begins with the death of a policeman, leading Banks into an investigation of the disappearance, six years earlier, of a young British woman while on holiday in Estonia. The recently murdered policeman, Detective Inspector Bill Reid, was the chief investigator in the disappearance case of Rachel Hewitt, a case that was never solved. The distraught parents had tried to keep the case alive, never giving up hope of finding their daughter alive, but no one in England or in Estonia had continued to investigate. Banks is more and more convinced that the reason DI Reid was killed was because of his involvement in the investigation of Rachel Hewitt.

We move into the seamy underworld of Eastern European corruption and people smuggling. Even though these Eastern European workers are coming from countries that are members of the EU, and they can legally enter the United Kingdom to work, they are victims of the Eastern European “mafia” who, for a fee, will find them work in England and provide living accommodation and transport. The jobs they find themselves working at are often difficult and dangerous, the living accommodation is sub-standard, and they may soon find themselves in debt to those who made all of these arrangements. The young women are given the “opportunity” to be prostitutes in order to pay their debts – and there is likely to be drugs involved. An altogether nasty situation. When one of these workers is found dead, in a building that had housed many migrant workers, it seems that there is a connection to DI Reid, and to Estonia.

A trip to Tallinn, Estonia is necessary. Banks is, unhappily, accompanied by Joanna Passero, a Professional Standards Inspector, who believes that DI Reid was guilty of corruption. Joanna and Banks do not see eye to eye about much of anything – he most definitely does not want her involved in his investigation but has no choice in the matter. Joanna has problems of her own and less interest in what may have happened to Rachel Hewitt than has Banks. Her only concern is proving that DI Reid is guilty of corruption – and her own need to further her career in a male dominated profession.

As in the many Inspector Banks novels published over the past 25 years, we have Alan Banks attempting to balance his personal life and his profession – although in this novel he is very much between relationships and his personal life takes a back seat. He is generally less stressed by his career than he has been in past novels. We see an Alan Banks who is, as I think many of us are at this time of life, comfortable with his life after some years of conflict and confusion about what really matters. I’m looking forward to the next Inspector Banks novel, when I suspect we may find him in a new relationship – or perhaps a rekindled one with his former lover Annie – who is feeling more secure in her own position within the police force and is a now much more mature woman.

I have been acquainted with Peter Robinson since he first came to Parry Sound to do a reading in 1992, a few years after the first in his series, Gallows View, was published, and again in 2008. We sometimes run into each other at literary events and enjoy a chat – he is a thoroughly nice man, a very good writer, and one whose success is well deserved.

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