12 December 2009

Mini-review: PAST REASON HATED, Peter Robinson

Published 1991, winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel 1992, 5th in the Inspector Banks series.

Publisher's Blurb
It should have been a cosy scene - log fire, sheepskin rug, Vivaldi on the stereo, Christmas lights and tree. But appearances can be deceptive. For Caroline Hartley, lying quietly on the couch, has been brutally murdered. Inspector Alan Banks is called to the grim scene. And he soon has more suspects than he ever imagined. As he delves into her past, he realises that for Caroline, secrecy was a way of life, and her death is no different. His ensuing investigation is full of hidden passions and desperate violence...

My take:
Susan Gay, newly appointed Detective Constable at Eastvale, her second day on the job in D.I. Bank's team, is called to a murder scene. It is 22 December, Christmas is approaching, and the rest of the team are at D.S. Hatchley's wedding celebrations. The victim Caroline Hartley lies stretched out on the lounge in front of the fire, with multiple stab wounds in her throat and chest, and blood drenching her whole body. She is part of the cast of a local dramatic production of Twelfth Night, and right from the beginning it seems as if there are far too many suspects.

My rating 4.7

Peter Robinson's site

Inspector Banks series (Fantastic Fiction's list)
1. Gallows View (1987)
2. A Dedicated Man (1988)
3. A Necessary End (1989)
4. The Hanging Valley (1989)
5. Past Reason Hated (1991)
6. Wednesday's Child (1992)
7. Dry Bones That Dream (1994) aka Final Account
8. Innocent Graves (1996)
9. Dead Right (1997) aka Blood at the Root
10. In a Dry Season (1999)
11. Cold Is the Grave (2000)
12. Aftermath (2001)
13. The Summer That Never Was (2003) aka Close to Home
14. Playing with Fire (2004)
15. Strange Affair (2005)
16. Piece of My Heart (2006)
17. Friend of the Devil (2007)
18. All the Colours of Darkness (2008)


Philip Amos said...

This takes me back to happier days with Robinson. He was once close to the top of my A+ List, British Division, but then, starting with Aftermath, I thought he went into an appalling decline. Strange Affair I thought one of the worst British crime novels I'd read in years. I'm still patiently waiting for someone else to remark on this, but thus far I seem to be alone in so thinking. Very odd, I must say. However, the first nine Banks, most certainly, are very fine indeed.

Kerrie said...

That's an interesting comment Philip. I really liked STRANGE AFFAIR (gave it 5) so your tastes and mine really do diverge sometimes.

Philip Amos said...

They do, they do, Kerrie, though it not be often. Now, I should say that I don't recall having any objection to the plotting in Strange Affair, in so far as I could focus on it through the red haze that came over my eyes as I got into the book. It was the writing that infuriated me. When I come across a novel that I think has been written by rote, 'phoned in', to borrow the actors' phrase, the scissors and paste wielded, I tend to take it as a personal insult, and I had no doubt Robinson was doing that, whether from boredom, weariness or -- a common curse today -- deadlines too short to do a proper job. Unhappily for me, I'm a Londoner born in Isleworth, so I know all too well the train journey from central London to Hounslow. When Robinson had Banks make that journey and describe the 'scenery' out the train window -- that's when I knew we were dealing with padding and formulaic writing, Banks having described the scenery to that point every damn time he came near a window and the music if he so much as caught sight of a radio. And I must add that not long ago I re-read Past Reason Hated with great pleasure.

Maxine Clarke said...

Good review, Kerrie.
Your post reminds me I am very behind on Peter Robinson. I read his first two ages ago and quite liked them but not all that much. I was rather daunted by the vast quantity of catching up I had to do, then I saw the author being interviewed at Harrogate crime festival which made me want to read some more. My crime fiction specialist advisor (a.k.a. Karen Meek) was with me at the time and she suggested I skip a few and start again with the one about the second world war (In a Dry Season) and Aftermath, and carry on from there. Obviously quite a lot has gone on in Banks's domestic life that I've missed out on but I have to say that unlike Philip I did enjoy these two rather different novels. Can't say I am that enamoured of Banks himself, he's a bit sexist and "typical British male" of a type I've always avoided, but I liked the plots and some of the other characterisations in these novels. For a strange reason, I have about five more of his novels to read, but have never actually got around to them....(the reason is that I happen to work for the same company that publishes or did publish his books, and the company lets us have a couple of books free every Christmas. There aren't ever that many that I want so I tend to acquire vast quantities of series that I haven't read, given the number of years I've worked there.

Philip Amos said...

Oh, I am with you re In a Dry Season, Maxine -- I recall reading that one with pleasure. It is with Aftermath that I think decline sets in -- that book, for one thing, seeming to me a cheap exploitation of the Karla Homolka/Paul Bernardo horror story, though in interviews Robinson tried to dress this bit of literary mutton as lamb. And then there was the wee matter of Strange Affair, but I've said enough about that. But, yes, I did enjoy In a Dry Season. Most truly, if mid-Robinson, his best period, and late-Robinson were presented to me anonymously with key names and a few tropes changed, I'd never know they were by the same author.


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