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Aiding the Enemy
Cold Is the Grave is the 11th entry in Peter Robinson's increasingly popular Alan Banks series and a highly satisfactory successor to last year's Edgar-nominated and Anthony Best-Novel winner, In a Dry Season. Unlike its predecessor, whose plot turned on a crime committed more than 40 years earlier, Cold Is the Grave is a sharply contemporary account of murder and its aftermath. At the same time, it features a gallery of characters whose lives have been shaped -- and sometimes warped -- by the accidents, errors, and omissions of the distant past.
The story begins when Inspector Alan Banks, a senior investigator for the Yorkshire Police Department, reluctantly agrees to come to the aid of Chief Constable Jeremiah Riddle, his superior officer and longtime personal enemy. Riddle's daughter Emily, a troubled, sexually active 16-year-old, has recently run off to London. When Riddle encounters nude photos of her on a pornographic web site, he enlists Banks's assistance in tracking his daughter down. In short order, Banks locates Emily, who has gotten involved with a slick, vicious gangster named Barry Clough. When Clough's penchant for sadistic games proves too much for Emily to take, she turns to Banks, who promptly restores her to her anxious, dysfunctional family. From this point forward, the lives of the various participants rapidly begin to unravel.
One month after returning home, Emily is murdered. Alan Banks, whose personal history is filled with the memories of people he failed to save, now adds Emily's name to that ever-growing list. The subsequent investigation leads him in a number of directions, from the clandestine society of modern pirates like Barry Clough (who has made a sizable fortune mass-producing bootlegged copies of music, software, and video games) to the twisted family history of Jeremiah Riddle, whose wife, Rosalind, has more than her share of volatile, closely guarded secrets. The result is a deeply felt, cumulatively involving novel in which a number of competing narrative threads move slowly toward a satisfying, unexpected conclusion.
Cold Is the Grave offers all the traditional pleasures of a solidly constructed mystery and an authentically detailed police procedural. It also offers something deeper and more subtle: a portrait of a family gradually destroyed by a fatal combination of rage, madness, and blind ambition. The result of all this is a thoughtful, intelligent thriller that entertains and enlightens, that explores, with equal facility, the criminal underworld of modern England and the darker realities of everyday family life.