This is the 21st book in a crime series set in Eastvale, North Yorkshire, England, featuring Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks.
Banks is called to a crime scene in an isolated area where 59-year-old Gavin Miller has been found dead under suspicious circumstances and with 5,000 pounds in his pocket.
Miller was a former college professor who was obsessed with the Seventies and the music, drugs, and politics associated with that time. Banks, being around the same age, finds, disconcertedly, that he has much in common with the victim in some ways.
But Miller was more than just a fan of artsy movies, the Grateful Dead, and soulful poetry. He had been dismissed from his job as a college lecturer after an accusation by two female students of having made inappropriate sexual advances. He was low on cash, malnourished, and without much hope for his future. Now, suddenly, he had a fortune in his pocket, and was reportedly much more upbeat. Could he have been involved with blackmail or drugs?
As Banks and his team try to sort it all out, they get stymied by an order to abandon one particular line of inquiry. A week before his death, Miller had a seven-minute phone call with a very wealthy woman who was the same age as Miller, and was known as a fiery revolutionary in her past. But this woman has friends in high places, and Banks is forbidden to “harass” her. Needless to say, Banks is not deterred, and gets help in pursuing that angle from some unexpected places.
Discussion: This is a book that started off a bit slow, but got better as it went along. There are some nice culture clashes which older readers should appreciate as the younger detectives are totally at sea when subjects from the early Seventies come up. A few side plots allow Robinson to explore the problems women have reporting rape; the mistreatment and under-appreciation of workers by society; the persistence of class conflict; the cognitive dissonance experienced by those who migrate between classes; and the relative merits of “truth” versus “justice.”
Evaluation: Robinson provides lots to think about in this book, which takes a more philosophical look at crime, rather than employing the usual thriller-type ending.
Published in hardback by William Morrow, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, in 2014, and in paperback by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015