Close to Home: A Novel of Suspense Hardcover – Feb 2003
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As a teenager in 1965, Chief Inspector Alan Banks was traumatized by the disappearance of his best friend, Graham Marshall. When Graham's decayed bones are discovered 40 years later, those old demons are reawakened. At the same time, Banks is heading a probe into the apparent kidnapping and murder of another troubled teenager, Luke Armitage. The Summer That Never Was, the latest in Peter Robinson's bestselling, Arthur Ellis Award-winning Inspector Banks series (Aftermath, Cold Is the Grave), explores the two cases in parallel, and the reader eagerly waits to discover their possible connection.
Unlike many thriller writers, Robinson doesn't rely on terse prose to fuel the narrative. His smooth style is colourfully descriptive and easy to relax into. Think of it as the equivalent of sipping a pint on the patio of an English pub, one of Banks's favourite occupations. As the suspense builds and the plot takes as many twists and turns as a road through the Yorkshire dales, Robinson is not afraid to detour into further character development, whether it's the tense relationship between Banks and his father or the ongoing grief of his new colleague, D.I. Michelle Hart.
Robinson, raised in Yorkshire but based in Toronto, has sometimes been compared to Ian Rankin, who actually contributes a quote on this book's dust jacket. The two share an ability to evoke time and place with real eloquence, and each writer loves to mix in musical references to help define their characters. Robinson does this very freely here, and with real accuracy. From '60s crooner Val Doonican through dead cult heroes Nick Drake and Ian Curtis to current singer-songwriters Nick Lowe and David Gray (two of Banks's faves), he never misses a beat. Similarly, his cultural references to the England of both the mid-'60s and the present day are spot-on. The Summer That Never Was is the 13th Inspector Banks novel, but there's nothing unlucky about it. Any lover of well-written detective thrillers will feel fortunate to encounter it. --Kerry Doole --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In this 12th novel to feature Det. Chief Insp. Alan Banks, the brooding Yorkshire policeman is called back to England from holiday when someone discovers the remains of his old childhood friend Graham Marshall, who disappeared from their hometown in 1965. It's a journey back to Banks's own past and the provincial town of Peterborough, where he assists Michelle Hart, a local detective, on the case. He's also advising his colleague (and former lover) Annie Cabbot as she investigates the more recent disappearance of another teenager: Luke Armitage, the introverted, intellectual son of a British rock star who committed suicide when Luke was a baby. Like P.D. James, Robinson works on a large, intricately detailed canvas (sometimes too detailed-even the minor figures get at least a thumbnail sketch). The plot is richly complex, with lots of forensic science, a fair bit of English criminal history (the Kray brothers, legendary '60s-era London East End gangsters, make an appearance) and some internecine police department feuds. There's a fair amount of action and lots of suspense; someone doesn't want Hart or Banks to pursue the decades-old case, and Cabbot has her hands full with a plethora of unsavory suspects in the Armitage case. Along the way, Robinson probes more abstract ideas: the illusory nature of nostalgia; the dark, secret lives of small towns; middle age; and the oft-lamented challenges of going home again. This satisfying and subtle police procedural has a little bit of everything.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
In reading Robinson's latest, I savoured each word. Enjoyed each nuance. Sunk into it's substance. Empathized with each character and then wished I hadn't read it yet so I could read it again, for the first time.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
and it is truly difficult to put down once started.
The hero, Chief D.I. Alan Banks is a complex character, in
both his professional and his personal life, and this book
continues his evolution as he continues to think about his
ex-wife, as well as his 2 children and their careers, and as
he wonders frequently where his personal life is headed.
Plus, he is facing "burn-out," as the murders and criminals
he faces routinely blunt his emotions and feelings, and he
fears he is withdrawing from some of his professional life.
The story revolves around 2 missing children, one of which
becomes his current case when the teen-age boy is found dead,
and the other of which was his buddy when he disappeared in
1965. There are so many parallels, Banks worries about both
cases, and he is drawn to the investigation of the old 1965
case in his hometown of Petersborough, while handling the
investigation of the other boy in his own jurisdiction of
While Banks worries about his relationship with one of his
detectives, Annie, he meets up with an intriguing red-haired,
green-eyed woman detective, Michelle, who is working the
old 1965 case with new clues. So Banks has a lot on his
mind as he unravels one mystery, and he gets fully involved
in the second.
Both cases involve personal danger to both Banks and his staff,
and there is plenty of action, as well as the intellectual
stimulation Robinson puts together, and this is a very
satisifiying book, and one that is highly recommended.
Plus, you can learn a lot about English countryside life
and work, while Banks visits his retired parents and makes
the rounds while helping with the 1965 case.
Entertaining and fun.
This is, I think, the best British police procedural that I've read in the past 4 months at least. I liked the manner in which Peter Robinson juxtaposed the investigation into the long ago murder of Graham Marshall with the more current one of Luke Armitage (another teenage boy with secrets) so seamlessly. And I thought that the manner in which Robinson handled the various motifs -- Banks' memories of what was going on that fateful year, Banks' difficult realtionship with his working-class parents, the fact that parents (no matter how loving) actually have very little idea of what's going on in their children's lives, Annie Cabbot's initial handling of the Luke Armitage case, etc -- was really well done. I also liked the manner in which the authour drew things out, all the while slowly building on the level of suspense/tension (as each new plot development is revealed) so that you really had that on-the-edge-of-your-seat feeling.
"Close to Home" proved to be a totally engrossing mystery novel that was incredibly hard to put down -- the characters were well drawn and fully developed; the subplots were intriguing, full of rich detail, atmospheric and vivid imagery; and the narrative style was subtle and nicely nuanced. My vote: "Close to Home" is definitely one of the early contenders for best mystery novel of the year.
CLOSE TO HOME by Peter Robinson is the latest in the Alan Banks mystery series and the Yorkshire Detective Chief Inspector demonstrates why the mystery genre continues to draw new fans. The discovery of the bones of Graham Marshall, a boyhood "mate" of the inspector, leads him back to his hometown in hopes of helping to resolve the case. Solving a 30 year-old murder would be difficult enough, but when the threads begin to unravel cover-ups and well kept secrets, the task becomes almost impossible.
Meanwhile, in his own bailiwick, another youngster has disappeared. This time it is fifteen year-old Luke Armitage who may have been kidnapped and then murdered. The pieces of evidence surrounding the case just don't fit and, once again, determination and dedication finally help uncover the key elements.
The two investigations are conducted simultaneously and Robinson moves the action effortlessly between Yorkshire and Peterborough. With his co-worker and former lover, Detective Inspector Anne Cabbot, following leads in the current case, Banks can spend time with DI Michelle Hart working on the Graham case. The women and the characters in each location are well defined so you never find yourself wondering which case is being discussed.
CLOSE TO HOME offers plenty of crisp dialogue, seasoned with enough English flavoring to make it interesting. On this side of the ocean we smile as we get an inside look at pubs named The Pig and Whistle and The Woolpack. And did you know that in England a police lineup is called an identity parade? A book of mug shots is a villains' album? And to waste time is to piss about? I haven't quite figured out all the ramifications of "sod" and maybe I shouldn't even ask!
Peter Robinson also has a knack for including trivia and triggers nostalgic feelings when he flashes back to the 60's. The pace of the story was a little slow at times but never enough to distract from the unfolding stories. Avid mystery fans will be delighted with the opportunity of solving these two cases along with the police. For a leisurely read, CLOSE TO HOME will not let you down.
--- Reviewed by Maggie Harding