Playing with Fire Hardcover – Feb 2004
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The calm of the English countryside is rudely shattered when two run-down barges on a remote canal explode into flame. When the smoke settles, two charred corpses remain, those of young junkie Tina Aspern and failed artist Tom McMahon. Enter Inspector Alan Banks, on a quest to determine who the intended target was and why. Not an easy challenge, as he encounters a pedophile, art forgers, and an anti-social delinquent (Tina's unfaithful boyfriend Mark), potential suspects all. Peter Robinson gradually unravels this tangled web with typical skill in Playing with Fire, a tightly plotted and suspenseful police procedural that justifies the growing reputation of this English-born, Toronto-based writer. Such peers as Stephen King and Dennis Lehane are admirers, and it is easy to see why.
The crime fiction aficionado can be excused for occasionally getting anxious that the recurring lead character of a long-running series might be about to overstay his welcome. Recent bestsellers in this series like The Summer That Never Was and Cold Is the Grave certainly gave no sign of that. Happily, neither does Playing with Fire, even though it marks Banks's 14th appearance. Robinson continues to dig deep into his protagonist's psyche, and Banks remains a fascinatingly flawed yet likeable character. His neuroses and sometimes petty jealousies, especially in relation to former lover DI Annie Cabbot, are ones we can relate and admit to. And like Ian Rankin, Robinson uses popular music as a signpost for the feelings and personality of his characters. Banks deeply immerses himself in the music of such wonderful singers as Mariza and Cassandra Wilson, while this book's Mark and Tina loved Beth Orton. Some enterprising record label should release an "approved by Robinson/Banks" CD collection. In the meantime, let's hope for many more future titles in this superb series. --Kerry Doole --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Edgar winner Robinson's 14th police procedural to feature Yorkshire DCI Alan Banks isn't quite up to the level of last year's superlative Close to Home, but it's nonetheless an engaging pleasure. Three victims have died in two suspicious fires: Tom McMahon, an eccentric, mostly unsuccessful local artist; Tina Aspern, a young heroin addict estranged from an abusive stepfather; and Roland Gardiner, another down-and-out chap but one who just happens to have a fireproof safe containing a substantial amount of cash and what appears to be a Turner watercolor. To solve the crimes, Banks and his team-DI Annie Cabbot and the refreshingly direct DC Winsome Jackman-pursue good old-fashioned police work, interviewing witnesses, neighbors, relatives and lovers and sifting through the evidence gathered by their specialist colleagues. They also make ample use of contemporary forensic technology. In keeping with the moody and introspective Alan Banks, the narrative style is tempered and deliberate, perhaps too much so for those who prefer, say, the riveting urgency of a Michael Connelly thriller. Characterization is Robinson's real strength. Virtually every character is etched with care, precision and emotional insight. With each book, the quietly competent Alan Banks gets more and more human; like red wine, he gets better and more interesting with age.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Top Customer Reviews
The other boat held a reclusive artist, and as the police dig into his life they find that he may have been involved in some shady dealings. When another fire occurs a few days later, resulting in the death of another man, Banks is sure that the fires and deaths are connected. As he and his fellow officers sift through the clues, they find ties to the art community and the possibility of forgery. Can they find the identity of the arsonist before he kills again?
This is the first Inspector Banks book I have read by Peter Robinson, but now I am anxious to read the other books in this series. Obviously, it would be better to read the others first to get a background on the characters, but I did not feel reading this one first detracted from Playing With Fire at all. The reader gets a sense of the characters, especially Inspector Banks and detective Annie Cabot. Both are dedicated to their jobs and work diligently to find the perpetrator of the crimes before the killer harms others. There is an undercurrent of tension from a failed relationship between the two which makes their conversations intriguing.
I have long been a fan of British police procedurals, and Mr. Robinson compares very favorably to my favorite author Elizabeth George.Read more ›
We learn that D.I. Banks really enjoys good jazz & classical music and has a love of scotch-particularily Laphroaig.
The story centers around a suspected arsonist, and the fires that claimed peoples lives. Following that the story unfolds into the concentrated detective leg-work it takes to solve a case once you start delving into a victims past life.
There are no shortage of suspects, and the reader does not find out until pages from the end of the book who's responsible.
The story was good and interesting enough, but I would have liked it to be more suspenseful.
However, I always enjoy Peter Robinson's writing style, and the next one I will be reading will be Friend of The Devil.
Playing with fire has Peter Robinson once again giving his hero Inspector Banks a interesting case which he works on with his usual determination mixed with a bit of humour. Set in wonderful Yorkshire in the depths of winter it is good to see the old Banks and Robinson back again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A second fire two nights later gives Banks and Cabbot another line to pursue--one that centers around art forgery. Because it is just possible that someone is cleaning up a mess--or a criminal network that has turned on him. Fortunately, Cabbot's boyfriend is an art professional. Unfortunately, Banks doesn't like the handsome boyfriend and the result is friction between two cops who have to work together closely.
Author Peter Robinson does a fine job developing characters and story simultaneously. Banks, with his recently ended marriage, his unsuccessful affair with Cabbot, and his current go-nowhere relationship with an out-of-town cop, remains sympathetic as he tries to track down the criminal--and to keep his feelings toward Cabbot's lover from veering into jealousy. Detours into the point of view of the young man initially suspected of arson add to the story's atmosphere.
I thought that the solution became a bit too obvious a bit too soon--and some of Banks' decisions seemed irrational, but overall, PLAYING WITH FIRE was an engrossing and enjoyable read.
It begins, of course, with flame. In the wee hours of a cold January morning (the chill of the climate and atmosphere is a brilliantly effective contrast to the searing fires of the plot) two narrow-boats are found burning on a lonely stretch of a Yorkshire canal. When the fire-fighters have done their work, the investigators move in, and two dead bodies are found in the remains, blackened and burnt. And, of course, in the best traditions of the murder-mystery, traces of accelerant are found.
However, which was the intended victim? Tina, the drugged out young girl living with her boyfriend on one boat, or Tom, the lonely, seemingly reclusive artist who lived on the other? As Robinson's well-seasoned protagonist Chief Inspector Banks sets the investigations in motion, the threads tangle and the case proves to be every bit as complex as it promised at the start. And this particular twisted firestarter is not done yet...
Peter Robinson is remarkable; with every single book for about 6 years, he has been continuing to expand his series, smashing down boundaries, reaching new heights with every single book. While once his reflective Inspector Banks novels were simply nice little procedurals to while away an evening, lately they have become something far more remarkable, and he has moved into the front rank of male crime writers, alongside Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly in writing moving, artful crime novels that shed light on all aspects of human experience. There are so many things to recommend him, not least his evocation of landscape and ability to probe the very human depths of every single characters instinctive motivations. He plots as if he were born to the genre, and his protagonist Banks is a true marvel. Less of a tough-as-nails guy than Bosch or Rebus, Banks is thoughtful, moral, reflective and, dare I say it, not startlingly interesting on the surface (but, of course, therein lies his shining humanity) and in Playing with Fire there are enough personal trials for him to deal with to satisfy any connoisseur of fascinating protagonists. The other human aspects of this book are incredibly well-done; moving and expansive, Robinson reaches out to all his characters, taking them gently by the hand and leading them to the reader, in sometimes shocking ways.
The cracking, multi-faced plot is in itself engaging and clever, with surprises and shifts in tone and pitch that elevate it far above the average. If this fourteenth entry in the series doesn't line itself up for several international awards, I'll eat my proof copy.
This story was extremely fast moving and hard to put down. Peter Robinson has created a brilliant plot for PLAYING WITH FIRE. It was complex, but very straightforward. Robinson does not rely on misdirection to create suspense, but rather a slow build-up of facts that rush the reader through a roaring crescendo toward the climax. There are a few loose ends that do not deter from the overall enjoyment of this novel. hopefully, some of the points will be addressed in the next Banks installment. This is a first rate British police procedural and a must read for anyone who appreciates quality.
Robinson just keeps on writing wonderful novels, managing to deliver police procedurals within the meaning of the Act - to borrow a Brit phrase - while pushing the envelope and managing to make us guess about more than whodunit.
In this book Banks and his team are investigating some grisly fire deaths - and they are up against a very clever fiend indeed. The villain is well-drawn, as are most of the characters Robinson puts in our path as the story rocks along. I couldn't put it down, and I can't wait for the next Banks book!
Several mystery writers have used fire as a "character" in their novels including Patricia Cornwell, P.D. James, and Elizabeth , so you might think Robinson could not come up with something very different, but he does. He crafts a new and from my perspective particularly horrible slant as he merges perspective of the victim, the art world, old and new friendships, and the ongoing development of the relationship between Annie and Alan.
For ages, female mystery writers have created and directed the exploits of male investigators. Robinson turns the tables, very effectively as he explores the psyche of Annie who is becoming almost as likeable as Harriet Vane. Robinson shows that females don't have to be dumb bunnies who are rescued from the jaws of death after they stupidly play into the killer's hands - sometimes the male needs rescuing. I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, reading past my bed time to finish it.