Monday, May 18, 2020

Past Reason Hated - Peter Robinson

Past Reason Hated, published in 1991, is Peter Robinson’s fifth Inspector Banks book. By this point in the series, even though Robinson is not an author prone to using much of a subplot to explore the personal life of his main character, Inspector Banks is better known to series readers. He is now 39 years old, his wife Sandra is probably about the same age, his son is 17, and his daughter is a preteen with a rapidly expanding interest in boys, make-up, and what her friends think. The man absolutely loves to drink and smoke, preferably at the same time, and he still seldom passes up the chance to do either even when on the job. Interestingly, too, he does not seem to be particularly empathetic when encountering homosexuals of either sex during an investigation – even when, as in his current case, the victim turns out to have been a lesbian. (Was 1991 really that long ago?)

Banks left the London crime scene behind a few years earlier hoping to be able to do his crime-solving at a much slower pace, but so far the citizens of Eastvale, the North Yorkshire town that became his new home, have not much cooperated. Instead, Eastvale and its surrounding suburbs have supplied Banks with a rather steady supply of murders to investigate. In Past Reason Hated, the murder victim is a young lesbian whose bloody corpse is found on her couch just three days before Christmas. Poignantly, the room is well-lit by a decorated Christmas tree, and an album of classical music is playing over and over on the stereo.

Caroline Hartley was a new member of a community theater group on the verge of opening a timely production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, so Banks and his team begin their murder investigation with an immediate abundance of suspects. But, starting  with the fact that no one else in the group even suspected that Caroline was gay, Banks and his investigators will soon learn that the real Caroline Hartley hardly resembled the woman she presented herself to the world to be. Banks keeps pulling on threads, the number of suspects grows longer and longer, and Banks even finds himself following leads all the way to the strip clubs in London’s SoHo district and back before he identifies the murderer.

Peter Robinson
This is one of the more complicated plots of the early Inspector Banks novels, but ironically, it is also one that seems easier for the reader to solve than it is for Banks and his whole crew to figure out. It is a case of “one of these things is not like the others” that will give many readers a solid hunch about the murderer’s identity some 60% or so of the way through Past Reason Hated. And if those readers are like me, they will be disappointed in just how predictable this makes the book’s entire climax. This is one of those times I would have really preferred to be wrong because a surprise at the end would have been a whole lot more fun.

Bottom Line: Past Reason Hated is a well-written literary murder mystery that fails to completely satisfy the veteran mystery reader because it is a little too solvable. That does not mean that fans of the Inspector Banks series should skip this one, though – not at all -  because it does add a few details to the Banks character, especially as it relates to the detective’s past, that fans are sure to appreciate.

8 comments:

  1. While I don't like starting new series books, this does sound good Sam. I've been wanting to read more mysteries and purchased a few mentioned in Eight Perfect Murders (Peter Swanson).

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    1. Robinson is a really good mystery writer, Diane. He seems to be hitting his stride in this fifth book in the series except for the relative ease with which a reader is likely to figure out who the killer has to be. He's a Brit who emigrated from England to Canada, and whose mysteries are all set in a fictional town in Northern Yorkshire. I feel good about my plan to read the whole series in order - all 26 of them, eventually.

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  2. I started following Robinson years ago, but haven't read all of them. Good luck on completing the series, Sam!

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    1. It's definitely going to take a while, Jenclair but I'd like to finally read a long series in the order in which it was written. I've never managed to do that.

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  3. 26 books in this series? Wow. That's a commitment. But it sounds like the main character has enough depth to go the distance. :)

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    1. It's a long series, for sure, and still going, but I'm in no hurry, so let's see what happens. :-)

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  4. I've never read anything by Robinson, but I have been meaning to try him. I'm always on the lookout for a good mystery series!

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    1. I only came to his books about a year ago myself, Susan. I was reluctant to start yet another detective series, but I've read six of them now, and I'm enjoying them.

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