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When the Music's Over by Peter Robinson - Review

Monday, July 10, 2017

This might be a really strange review and I really apolgise for that if it is. I've just finished this book after it's been dragging on for over a week. It really wasn't grabbing me and unfortunately I think it will be the last of the DCI Banks books that I'll read.

I've read probably most of them now. I got into them years ago, probably around fifteen years ago when I was an older teenager. My dad was really into crime novels and I often picked them up from him. I think though that I found Peter Robinson first. The books are set in Eastvale in North Yorkshire, which I think is supposed to be Skipton, and concern Alan Banks, who, at the beginning of the series, has just moved to Yorkshire from London and is dealing with being a more provinical copper than the lights of the big city. Banks is a really likeable character - he is somewhat of a maverick cop, but they all are in books aren't they - and he likes music and Laphroaig whiskey and has a string of girlfriends who are all interesting people. His partner, DI Annie Cabbot, is also likeable, although less so in this novel, I have to say. Plus I really like the setting of North Yorkshire, somewhere I really love and know quite well. I feel like Peter Robinson creates a good sense of the town, of Banks' place within it, and of the atmosphere of the countryside. So I've read a lot of the series, mostly picked up in charity shops for a couple of quid and shared with each of my parents - my dad when he was still alive, and my mum even now. 

So when I saw that this one, published last year, was on Kindle for £1.89, I bought it. I started reading it just a couple of weeks later and while I liked the story I feel like Robinson just hasn't managed to keep the stories modern enough for me. I'll go into that in a bit. 

In this book there are two cases going on. Banks is tasked with investigating an historic allegation of sexual assault. Linda Palmer is just fourteen at the time, in 1967, and on holiday in Blackpool when she meets TV personality Danny Caxton. She's eager to impress him and goes back to his hotel room, where she's raped by Caxton and another man. She and her mother report it back at home in Leeds, but the case is quickly dropped. In the modern time, she has been inspired by cases like the Jimmy Savile one and has reported the crime again. It is part of a bigger investigation into Caxton, who is now eighty five. 

Meanwhile, a girl is found murdered on a quiet road near Eastvale. She has been raped, but by different men to the person who murdered her. Identifying her leads Annie to Wytherton, a place on the edge of Teesside, where racial tensions are running high. Banks has to oversee both cases and deal with press intrusion into both too.

I liked both stories and I felt that both were done quite well. Annie's attitude towards immigrants was, I felt, quite out of character to me, no matter how often she tried to say that she just wanted to catch the bad guys, no mater what race they were. I really went off her in this book. I also felt like there were some writing issues with the teenagers involved. Even though the novel is set in about the current year (they keep saying the rape of Linda Palmer happened "about fifty years ago"), no one thinks to check the social media accounts of the teenagers involved. For real, there's not one mention of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or anything like that. I honestly believe that if you've just got the identity of a fifteen year old girl, you're going to check her social media to see who she's been hanging around with recently. And yet, nobody does. Furthermore, some of the names given to the teens are strange - one is called Carol Fisher. I don't know about you, but I think kids born around the turn of the century don't tend to be called Carol. They're called things like Amelia and Jade and Caitlin. I feel like Robinson could have done some research in naming his characters.

Even more furthermore, there's a part where one of the police officers goes to talk to a teenager about what's happened, in secret. This teenager does not speak like a current teenager. Not even the most articulate teenager would have used some of the phrases that she did, which sounded archaic even to my own eyes. I wish Robinson had done a bit more research into this, too. He should read some Young Adult to get a feel for how to write convincing teenagers!

I was talking to my partner as I was reading this book. He always asks whether I'm enjoying what I'm reading and I usually don't have much to say, but this time I told him I wasn't really enjoying it, because of the issues above. That made me think a bit more about the series as a whole. I think the problem is that Robinson didn't expect that he would be writing them for so long. The first book was published thirty years ago and at the time, Banks isn't a young man. He's been in the Metropolitan Police for a while, and in the first books his children are teenagers. He's around forty at the very least. Thirty years on, as a copper, he'd have been retired for fifteen years and would be mowing the lawn in his retirement. But clearly the books took off (there's a TV show, too) and now it's 30 years later and the books haven't caught up to life, but neither is there any attempt to set them in the past. It is a problem, and it's really offputting, so I think I'm done with Banks unfortunately. I give this book three out of five. 


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