Friday, May 17, 2019

A Dedicated Man - Peter Robinson

William Morrow Paperback from 2015
Continuing my recent discovery and exploration of Peter Robinson’s fiction, I have just completed his second Inspector Banks novel, A Dedicated Man.  As I mentioned earlier however, this is actually my third Banks novel since I only discovered Robinson with last year’s Careless Love.

 It seems that the good inspector has been enjoying something of a major-crime lull since the personal trauma he and wife Sandra suffered in Banks’s debut in Gallows View.  All of that though abruptly ends via the brutal murder of a “dedicated man,” a retired college professor who has permanently relocated to Banks’s rather isolated Yorkshire location.  Mainly because everyone seems to have loved and respected the victim to such a high degree, the case proves to be a particularly difficult one for Banks to get a handle on, but the inspector counts on his usual persistence, along with a well aimed hard push or two in the right direction, to get the job done. 

Author Peter Robinson
And it’s precisely that attitude that attracts me to Robinson’s Inspector Banks novels.  I have always enjoyed a good police procedural and found them to be more satisfying than detective novels by writers who rely on one thrilling scene after another to carry their books to some kind of (usually preposterous) conclusion. For me the best crime fiction writers are those who combine elements of both styles with an emphasis on process over thrill.  Thankfully, too, Inspector Banks is a “talker” and several times in A Dedicated Manhe explains his crime solving philosophy to one or another of the locals in great detail.

Robinson first tells the reader something that Banks learned the hard way:
“Banks knew from experience that once a murder investigation begins there is no stopping and little slowing down even for family life.  The crime invades mealtimes, ablutions, and sleep; it dominates conversation and puts up an invisible barrier between the investigator and his family.”

There’s also this from Robinson explaining the inspector’s mindset:
            “Banks also liked the feeling of being an outsider.  Not a stranger, as he had been among the anonymous, international crowds of London, but an outsider.  He knew he always would be no matter how deep he put his roots.”  (In Yorkshire)

In a revealing conversation with a crime novelist who also is a suspect in the murder investigation, Banks says this:
            “In writing, yes.  In fiction.  But in real life, I’m not so sure.  It’d be a damn sight easier if I knew who the criminal was without having to write the whole book and make all the mistakes along the way.”

Later on when another suspect asks if he is close to solving the murder, he says:
“I can’t see it if I am, but detection doesn’t work like that anyway.  It’s not a matter of getting closer like a zoom lens, but of getting enough bits and pieces to transform chaos into a recognizable pattern…But you can’t predict when that moment will come.  It could be in the next ten seconds or the next ten years. You don’t know what the pattern will look like when it’s there, so you might not even recognize it at first. But soon enough you’ll know you’ve got a design and not just a filing cabinet full of odds and sods.” 

I really like Chief Inspector Alan Banks.  He may be a bit of a plodder, but he’s not going to quit before he gets the job done.  So if police procedurals are for you, I think that author Peter Robinson just may be your guy.  And knowing that I have something like 22 more Inspector Banks novels to enjoy makes me happy (hopefully there are many more to come yet).

Book Number 3,394


  1. I haven't read any books in this series, but I like the sound of Alan Banks. And I love those quotes you chose!

    1. If you like procedurals, this will be series you enjoy. But readers who prefer lots of action and chases, erc. talk badly about some of Robinson's books. It's largely a matter of taste.

  2. I started reading this series in the 1990's and have enjoyed all of the ones I've read, although it has been a while. The last one I read was When the Musics Over in 2016.

    1. Are you reading them in order? I particularly enjoy series because in good ones the characters evolve and age over time right along with the reader. I started the Dave Robicheaux and John Rebus series when they first appeared and really loved that aspect of both characters. But it's always fun to finally find a long series and be able to binge-read it rather than have to wait a year or more between books. Its all fresher in my mind that way.