Piece of My Heart Paperback – Apr 27 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Det. Insp. Alan Banks investigates the apparently motiveless murder of Nicholas Barber, a rock journalist from London visiting a small town near Banks's Yorkshire police precinct, in Robinson's less-than-stellar 14th novel to feature the Yorkshire police detective. Meanwhile, another mystery unfolds in a parallel narrative, the fatal stabbing of a young woman at a local rock festival back in 1969. Needless to say, the cases are intertwined—as Banks puts it, "the past is never over"—and part of the pleasure is trying to piece together the links. Unfortunately, Robinson takes too long to connect the two stories, and the earlier thread suffers from the lack of Banks's engaging presence (though it does capture, with great fidelity, that odd mixture of self-absorption and idealism of the late 1960s and the whole hippie/rock music scene). As always, the author's prose is clear, observant and intelligent, but the story itself is not nearly as compelling as 2005's Strange Affair. 6-city author tour. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“First rate . . . an addictive crime series . . . bet you can’t read just one.”
— New York Times
“Peter Robinson takes the straightforward police procedural and transforms it into something approaching art.”
— Calgary Herald
Praise for Strange Affair:
“Moody, atmospheric, exciting and deftly plotted. Another explosive read from Robinson.”
— Hamilton Spectator
“Magical storytelling. What [Peter Robinson] produces here is extraordinary.”
— Ottawa Citizen
“Peter Robinson builds a mean mystery.”
— Montreal Gazette
“The best Banks book in years.”
— Winnipeg Sun
From the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Seems that in the earlier case a young woman was found dead in her sleeping bag following a music festival. She had been murdered and was discovered among the bottles, drug paraphernalia and other leavings common to a British outdoor concert at that time. As it turns out she was slain during a Led Zeppelin set. Who was she and why was she killed? All readers initially know is that she had some dealings with a fictional rock band, the Mad Hatters.
This doesn't seem at all the type of crime usually associated with Robinson's popular protagonist Detective Chief Alan Banks. At the present he has more than he can handle. As readers of Strange Affair may remember Banks recently lost his brother, and now he is called to investigate the murder of a stranger who came to Yorkshire a short while ago and then was fatally crowned with a poker.
As it turns out the journalist was working on a piece for MOJO magazine about the Mad Hatters. And, what a band they were - one member went over the deep end (mentally), another drowned in the shallow end of a swimming pool.
Thus are Banks and Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick, who was assigned to the dead girl's case, drawn together and readers are treated to twin narratives as the mystery of why there is any connection between the two murders is revealed.
Two mysteries for the price of one, both crafted by one of the best writers around.
- Gail Cooke
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Chadwick has a dual agenda as a parent when he assigns his crew to what might seem an impossible task - pinpointing one killer in a cast of thousands that attended an open air rock event with multiple bands and attendees. It is difficult enough to keep tabs on his own daughter who is embracing, at what he deems to be a very young age, the morality free and responsibility free lifestyle of the 1960's hippy culture. Chadwick relies on process, tried and true methods and the elimination of suspects one by one. It proves rather hard to achieve this when the people he investigates are barely aware of what they themselves did that night, let alone the activities of anyone else.
The modern day dilemmas of Banks mirror those of his predecessor in that he has a child connected with the music industry and that his murder suspects are cagey, at best. The common elements in the two crimes are what drive Banks to re-open what was supposed to be a previously resolved murder enquiry in order to get to the truth of his own.
Some of the frustration readers have expressed with this novel is that it is not much of a whodunit. Robinson has had a lot of time to craft and flesh out DCI Banks and tends not to waste time on giving his character, and thus the reader, pointers of how to behave and process. They have already been established in previous novels and what we have here is a current snapshot of where the character is in his life story. The mirror past narrative of Chadwick does, however, serve well to add much needed colour to the novel and is done, we feel, with much affection for the era and its influence on the modern day in this particular part of the world.
PIECE OF MY HEART will of course appeal to the readers of the series while not being the stellar entry in it so far. It is classic procedural Banks but even with the addition of the 1960's storyline this novel tends to progress rather ponderously with little to reward the reader for their efforts at resolution. It lacks any real sense of suspense and sadly, no twists and turns are included to race the novel towards conclusion. Acknowledged, they are not always required, but would have been a welcome inclusion in this rather bland effort from a very successful novelist well known for his rich characterization, meticulous plots and moody, sombre tones.
PIECE OF MY HEART is the 16th novel in the Detector Inspector Alan Banks series.
This mystery is a wonderful vehicle for the versatile and enormously talented Peter Robinson to explore a variety of themes that he has dealt with time and again in this highly praised series: What are some of the ways in which the past intersects with the present? Why do parents who want nothing more than to protect their teenaged children alienate them and even provoke them into committing self-destructive acts? How do political considerations wreak havoc with a murder investigation? As always, the author's beautifully evocative word pictures create indelible images. Nobody describes Yorkshire and the people who live there better than Peter Robinson.
Alan Banks has matured greatly over the years. He has quit smoking, drinks moderately, is more circumspect in his love life, and cuts fewer corners professionally. However, he is still insightful, aggressive in conducting interviews, and unwilling to take abuse from his superiors. He remains a dogged and tenacious investigator who generally gets his man. Banks's counterpart in the sixties, DI Chadwick, is a World War II veteran with horrible memories that he cannot quite eradicate. He is also the worried father of a rebellious sixteen year-old-girl who runs with a fast crowd. Chadwick's professional detachment is shattered by his personal distaste for the devotees of the counterculture. Whereas Banks is liberal, open-minded, and realistic, Chadwick is opinionated, narrow-minded, and inflexible.
Robinson spends a great deal of time delving into the psyches of rock musicians and their groupies as well as of the friends and relatives of the dead journalist. Did the chaotic social scene back in the sixties foster a climate of peace and love or of anarchy and violence? One of the characters sums up the situation this way: "Strip away that thin veneer of civilization and convention, of obedience and order, and what do you get--the beast within."
The solutions to the crimes become apparent only after Cabbot, Banks, and their colleagues conduct numerous interviews and do an exhaustive amount of research. Two minor quibbles are that the book is a bit too long and some of the facts that emerge at the end come out of left field. Still, "Piece of My Heart" is a fully realized and complex suspense novel that goes well beyond a mere whodunit.
Linda Lofthouse is the subject of the 1969 case, found murdered in a sleeping bag after the Brimleigh Festival. Chadwick is hardly an expert on the youth culture at the time; names like Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Peter Townsend mean nothing to him, never mind that his daughter Yvonne puts him in the mind of the victim. Indeed, his unease over his daughter's lifestyle --- the secretiveness, the late hours that turn into early ones, and the music --- to some extend intrude upon his investigation. What Chadwick doesn't know is that Yvonne had a tenuous but important tie to Lofthouse. He does discover, however, that Lofthouse was connected to the Mad Hatters, an up-and-coming rock band who played the festival.
Banks's present-day victim is Nick Barber, who was just beginning research for an in-depth article about the Mad Hatters. After incredible success marred by personal tragedies, the band is about to launch a reunion tour. Banks has no idea that the murder that occurred some three-odd decades ago was the catalyst for the killing that he is investigating now, and that his investigation may solve the mystery of both killings, performed years apart but forever connected.
Robinson is nothing short of a marvel. He does for London what Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald did for southern California, using his stories against the backdrop of an urban locale to function as a documentation of social and psychological mores of a point in time. He arguably has never succeeded as well as he does with PIECE OF MY HEART. Anyone interested in the more obscure elements of British rock music of the late 1960s will find much to delight in here with the offhand mention of bands who achieved little more than cult status (it has been decades since I have given even a passing thought to Atomic Rooster), a device that lends much to the authenticity of the portions of the tale taking place in the 1960s.
While not a lot appears to happen on the surface --- Banks asks some questions, does research, broods, poses more questions --- Robinson maintains a quiet tension from first page to last, one that makes it almost impossible to stop reading. Additionally, Banks's personal life is just boring enough to make any variation extremely interesting. If you haven't read Robinson before, save some time this summer to catch up on his previous volumes. I guarantee you will want to.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub