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In a Dry Season (Inspector Alan Banks Series #10)

In a Dry Season (Inspector Alan Banks Series #10)

3.7 20
by Peter Robinson

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Peter Robinson, internationally acclaimed author of literary suspense, knows the serenity found in the rustic Yorkshire countryside can be deceptive. For evil can strike in the most pastoral of surroundings, and go unpunished for years-even decades.Water is the essence of life. Yet during a dry season, when supply cannot meet demand, the precious commodity rapidly


Peter Robinson, internationally acclaimed author of literary suspense, knows the serenity found in the rustic Yorkshire countryside can be deceptive. For evil can strike in the most pastoral of surroundings, and go unpunished for years-even decades.Water is the essence of life. Yet during a dry season, when supply cannot meet demand, the precious commodity rapidly drains from a manmade resevoir to reveal a forgotten town that was sacrificed for the sake of water.A blistering summer has struck, and thirst has consumed the resources provided by the Thornfield Resevoir, unmasking the remains of Hobb's End, a small village at its bottom that ceased to exist in post World War II England. A curious child thinks of the resurfaced hamlet as a mystical playground, until he unearths a human skeleton. Modern forensics determine that the skeleton belongs to a young woman who appears to have been brutally murdered and hidden beneath the floor of a decrepit outbuilding in the 1940's. It falls to a grudge-wielding police superior to seclect a detective for the impossible task of putting a name to the unidentifiable remains from a place that no longer exists, and whose living former residents are scattered to the winds.Having challenged the system and his superiors once too often, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks has been restricted to desk duty as punishment for insubordination, until an official telephone call lands him in the muck of the decades-old murder. Given the state of affairs, any sensible policeman would throw in the towel, but not Banks. Aided by Annie Cabbot, an intuitive Detective Sergeant, Banks challenges the odds by identifying the victim and proceeeds to uncover the pastburied beneath a flood of time, indiscretions and denial.

Editorial Reviews

B&N.com Editor
Our Review
Whither the Great Detectives?

I'm not sure if the title of the panel actually included the word "whither," but it should have. It was starchy enough. It was an online discussion of whatever happened to all those brainiacs known as the Great Detectives of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

I was asked to participate because I hate the so-called Golden Age. All panels need dissenters.

All this preamble is by way of saying that I actually learned quite a bit from the panel. And now I've read a novel that puts the whole Golden Age discussion into perspective.

Forty years ago, Peter Robinson's Chief Inspector Alan Banks would have been a Great Detective. He probably would have said "Zounds!" and leapt to Sherlockian conclusions every time he was presented with tiny, arcane bits of evidence. He would have had no life whatever outside the plot. He would have been permitted one eccentricity (I have always wanted one of those guys to experience flatulence every time he was in the presence of royalty), and he would doubtless have had a servant or two of "foreign" birth to assist him in his criminological travails. As I said, the Golden Age ain't exactly my spot of tea.

But fortunately, it isn't 40 years ago. And, also fortunately, Peter Robinson is determined to stretch the limits of the mystery form so that it becomes serious without becoming Serious, if you know what I mean. This is what became, thank God, of the Great Detective.

This very British crime novel looks in some depth at 1) the dynamics of a bad marriage, 2) the aching grief of a father and son who can no longer communicate, 3) the daily despondence one feels working for a boss who loathes you. The mystery itself deals with the discovery of a corpse that has been hidden away for several decades. Our Inspector Banks investigates. The clueing is as fecund as Christie and the writing graceful and evocative. The twists are done especially well; and the ending, with Banks learning that time is not linear but circular, has a quiet power that will remain with you long after you've forgotten some of the noisier novels of recent note.

In a Dry Season is also, if this sort of thing interests you, a very enlightening look at modern detection. While a number of novelists use police technology as their theme, Banks is one of the few writers who is able to show us how all the various processes apply to an actual case. Unlike a Great Detective, Banks shows us how a person might really go about trying to piece together a case, particularly one that is nearly 50 years old. It is not only a fine novel of character, it is also an excellent detective story.

Robinson is the real thing -- storyteller and stylist, very much in the Simenon mold, but with a melancholy eye and wan humor all his own. In a Dry Season is a very good novel indeed.

--Ed Gorman
Michael Connelly
A wonderful novel. From Peter Robinson's deft hand comes a multi-layered mystery woven around the carefully detailed portraits of characters all held tightly in the grip of the past.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Able plotter and smooth stylist that he is, Robinson is above all a gifted creator of fully fleshed and vividly presented characters...He creates a suspenseful novel with many of the dynamic qualities of more literary fiction.
Washington Post Book World
Richly layered...Fans of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell who crave more contemporary themes than either master has provided of late should look no further than Peter Robinson.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Anyone who loves a good mystery should curl up gratefully with a cuppa to enjoy this rich 10th installment of the acclaimed British police procedural series. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, on the skids since the breakup with wife Sandra, languishes in "career Siberia" until old nemesis Chief Constable Riddle sends him to remotest Yorkshire on a "dirty, pointless, dead-end case." It seems a local kid has discovered a skeleton in dried-up Thornfield Reservoir, constructed on the site of the deserted bucolic village of Hobb's End. Banks taps into his familiar network of colleagues to identify the skeleton as that of Gloria Shackleton, a gorgeous, provocative "land girl" who worked on a Hobb's End farm while her husband was off fighting the Japanese decades ago. Apparently, Gloria had been stabbed to death. As Banks and Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot struggle to re-create the 50-year-old crime scene, wartime Yorkshire, with all its deprivations and depravities, springs to life. (Banks revives, too, showing renewed interest in his job, and in women.) Robinson brilliantly interweaves the story of Banks's investigation with an ambiguous manuscript by detective novelist "Vivian Elmsley," a 70-ish woman once Gloria's sister-in-law. Is the manuscript a memoir of events leading to Gloria's vicious murder, or "all just a story"? Either way, every detail rings true. Once again, Robinson's work stands out for its psychological and moral complexity, its startling evocation of pastoral England and its gritty, compassionate portrayal of modern sleuthing. Agent, Dominick Abel.
Library Journal
Robinson's latest in the Inspector Banks series is actually two parallel stories: the brutal post-World War II murder of a young British woman and the solving of the crime some 40 years later. A major complication for the investigators is that the town where the murder was committed has been covered by a reservoir for decades, eliminating most physical traces of the crime. Banks must painstakingly piece together the spotty record of the townspeople long after most of them have moved to other areas or died of old age. Robinson switches back and forth from present-day sleuthing to the time of the actual murder, with the characters of both time periods well developed and complex. Robinson tells a compelling story of war-time England that rings true. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/99.]--Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland Lib., OR
School Library Journal
YA-A fascinating whodunit. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is called to attend to a skeleton found in the ruins of a deserted village. Flooded by a reservoir shortly after World War II, Hobb's End had been under water until a recent drought exposed its remnants. Thanks to modern forensics, Banks and the local Detective Sergeant, Annie Cabbot, learn that the remains were those of a young woman who had been strangled and then viciously stabbed numerous times. An apparent 50-year-old crime faces Banks and Cabbot as they go about gathering facts in an attempt to determine the identities of the victim and her murderer. The charm of this story lies in the way it is played out. Readers are privy to the thoughts of the characters from 50 years ago as their story is told as it happened. Chapter by chapter, readers learn about life in a small village in England during World War II. Interspersed with these chapters are the investigations, interviews, and research conducted by the detectives in the present day. The traits and foibles of the townspeople take shape and a portrait of the victim emerges. Despite its length, mystery buffs will find this book an easy read, and they'll be left with some questions to ponder that would make for an interesting and lively book discussion.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Ellery Queen
The plot and characters are expertly handled, and the fascinating details of the British homefront provide a plus.
Marilyn Stasio
...[A] mystery that must be unfolded gently, like an old letter.The New York Times Book Review
Island Magazine
In a Dry Season also harks back to World War II, but Peter Robinson's novel operates in a more complex framework of time. There's another similarity: The cops are a couple - Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and Detective Sergeant Annie Cabbot. But Banks is under a cloud, assigned to the seemingly impossible job of making sense of a skeleton uncovered in a Yorkshire village that's been underwater since the mid-1940s. Robinson's many-faceted characters are his great strong point, though the byways of the plot can be a little hard to follow.
Kirkus Reviews
Estranged from his carping wife, and still in the doghouse with petty Chief Constable Jeremiah Riddle after his freelance investigations in Blood at the Root (1997), Eastvale's Chief Inspector Alan Banks doesn't expect much good news—and his worst fears seem confirmed when Jimmy Riddle packs him off to Harksmere, where a drought and an inquisitive boy have combined to reveal a 50-year-old corpse under the rotting floor of a building no longer submerged in the parched Thornfield Reservoir. There's clearly no glory to be won solving so ancient a case, especially when the local investigating force consists of one sergeant, Anne Cabbot, and almost everyone who might know what happened in the abandoned village of Hobb's End is now as dead as the village itself. Starting with hints from the corpse (some fine, unobtrusive pathological work here), Banks and Cabbot slowly narrow their focus to the the household of Matthew Shackleton—a farm boy who went off to the war in 1941 after marrying lively land girl Gloria Stringer—and of his sister Gwen. Meantime, mystery novelist Vivian Elmsley, hearing of the grisly find beneath the reservoir, cowers (why?) in anticipation of Banks's knock at her own door. Crosscutting dexterously between past and present, courtesy of Vivian's memoir of the days when the countryside was shorn of its native males and overrun by charming Yanks, Robinson delicately reveals a web of passion and pain whose pattern still isn't complete.

Product Details

Pan Macmillan
Inspector Alan Banks Series , #10
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.37(w) x 7.01(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Adam, Kelly loved to play in the derelict houses, loved the musty smell of the old rooms, the way they creaked and groaned as he moved around inside them, the way the sunlight shone through the laths, casting striped shadows on the walls. He loved to leap the gaps between the broken stairs, heart in his mouth, and hop from rafter to rafter, kicking up plaster dust and watching the motes dance in the filtered light.

This afternoon, Adam had a whole village to play in.

He stood at the rim of the shallow valley, staring at the ruins below and anticipating the adventure to come. This was the day he had been waiting for. Maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Anything could happen down there. The future of the universe depended on Adam today; the village was a test, one of the things he had to conquer before advancing to the Seventh Level.

The only other people in sight stood at the far end, near the old flax mill: a man in jeans and a red T-shirt and a woman all dressed in white. They were pretending to be tourists, pointing, their video camera here and there, but Adam suspected they might be after the same thing he was. He had played the game often enough on his computer to know that deception was everywhere and things were never what they seemed. Heaven help us, he thought, if they got to it first.

He half-slid and half-ran down the dirt slope, skidding to a halt when he reached the red, baked earth at the bottom. There were still patches of mud around; all that water, he supposed, wouldn't just evaporate over a few weeks.

Adam paused and listened. Even the birds were silent. The sun beat downand made him sweat behind his ears, at the back of his neck and in the crack of his bum. His glasses kept slipping down his nose. The dark, ruined cottages wavered in the heat like a wall behind a workman's brazier.

Anything could happen now. The Talisman was here somewhere, and it was Adam's job to find it. But where to begin? He didn't even know what it looked like, only that he would know it when he found it and that there must be clues somewhere.

He crossed the old stone bridge and walked into one of the half-demolished cottages, aware of the moist, cool darkness gathering around him like a cloak. It smelled like a bad toilet, or as if some gigantic alien creature had lain down to die in a hot, fetid swamp.

Sunlight slanted in through the space where the roof had been, lighting the far wall. The dark stones looked as slick and greasy as an oil spill. In places, the heavy stone flags that formed the floor had shifted and cracked, and duck gobbets of mud oozed up between them. Some of the slabs wobbled when Adam stood on them. He felt poised over a quicksand ready to suck him down to the earth's core if he made one wrong move.

There was nothing in this house. Time to move on.

Outside, he could still see no one. The two tourists seemed to have left now, unless they were hiding, lying in wait for him behind the ruined mill.

Adam noticed an outbuilding near the bridge, the kind of place that had perhaps once been used to store coal or keep food cold. He had heard about the old days before electric fires and fridges. It might even have been a toilet.

Hard to believe, he knew, but once people had to go outside to the toilet, even in winter.

Whatever it had been, The Destructors had left it largely alone. About seven feet high, with a slanting flagstone roof still intact, it seemed to beckon him to come and vanquish it. Here, at least, was a structure he could mount to get a clear view. If the pretend-tourists were hiding nearby, he would see them from up there.

Adam walked around the outbuilding and was pleased to see that on one side a number of stones stuck out farther than others, like steps. Carefully, he rested his weight on the first one. It was slippy, but it held fast. He started to climb. Every step seemed solid enough, and soon he was at the top.

He pulled himself onto the roof. It only slanted at a slight angle, so it was easy enough to walk on. First, he stood near the edge, cupped his hand over his eyes to shield out the harsh sun and looked in every direction.

To the west stood the flax mill, and the strangers were now nowhere in sight. The land to both the north and south was covered in woods, so it was hard to see anything through the dense green foliage. To the east lay the teardrop shape of Harksmere Reservoir. On The Edge, which ran along the south side of Harksmere, a couple of car windscreens flashed in the sun. Other than that, there was hardly any movement in the world at all, hardly a leaf trembling.

Satisfied he wasn't being watched, Adam struck out over the roof. It was only about four or five feet wide, but when he got to the middle he felt the faintest tremor, then, before he could dash the short distance to the other side, the thick stone slabs gave way beneath him. For a moment, he hung suspended in air, as if he might float there forever. He stuck his arms out and flapped them like wings, but to no avail. With a scream, he plunged down into the darkness.

He landed on his back on a cushion of mud; his left wrist cracked against a fallen flagstone and his right arm, stretched out to break his fall, sank up to the elbow.

As he lay there, winded, looking up at the square of blue sky above him, he saw two of the remaining roof slabs tilt and fall toward him. Each one was about three feet square and six inches thick, enough to smash him to a pulp if it hit him. But he couldn't move; he felt trapped there, spellbound by the falling slabs.

What People are Saying About This

Michael Connelly
In a Dry Season is a wonderful novel. From Peter Robinson's deft hand comes a multi-layered mystery woven around the carefully detailed portraits of characters all held tightly in the grip of the past. At its heart is Inspector Banks. A man for all seasons, he knows that often the clues to the answers he seeks can be found in his soul.
— Author of Blood Work

Meet the Author

One of the world’s most popular and acclaimed writers, Peter Robinson is the bestselling, award-winning author of the Inspector Banks series; he has also written two short-story collections and three standalone novels, which combined have sold more than ten million copies around the world. Among his many honors and prizes are the Edgar Award, the CWA (UK) Dagger in the Library Award, and Sweden’s Martin Beck Award.

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In a Dry Season (Inspector Alan Banks Series #10) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Love-to-Read-DA More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I read from Peter Robinson's Det. Alan Banks' series and I enjoyed it so much I went back to the first Nook book I could find in the series and started reading them all from there. Robinson has a great writing style--the characters, particularly the recurring ones, seem real. This book is set in England (as are all of the series) and it goes back and forth from current times to WWII. It's not easy to figure out who did it until you're at the end of the book. I recently read it for the second time for my book club--it was enjoyed by all!
KnitKicky More than 1 year ago
Engaging mystery with depth of character. The WWII scenes are an interesting look into a time few still alive have experienced. Ending is predictable...but its still fun getting there.
texaskcr More than 1 year ago
What a cracking good mystery. Alan Banks is a fantastic character- multi layered and complex. Robinson's use of time and place in this novel is excellent. If you haven't read Peter Robinson before- don't hesitate to pick this one up. It is the 10th in the series, but easy to start with and you will immediately want to read all the others.
EdNY More than 1 year ago
My first Inspector Banks book and I'm a fan. Even though I started in the middle of the series, it didn't matter. Banks is in hot water with his commanding officer, Riddle, so Riddle sends him on a non-sense case. His co-worker on the case is Annie Cabbot, also persona non-grata. It is the mid-90s. Thirteen year old Adam Kelley was playing in the dried up reservoir that was once the town of Hobbs End (it was flooded in the early 1950s to make the reservoir) when he fell off a roof into what was originally an outhouse. His arm sinks in the mud and when he pulls it out, he's holding the skeleton of a human hand. Banks and Cabbot are called to the scene. Robinson alternates between current events (the police procedures to find information about the victim and her associates) and a narrative of the times leading up to the murder, since murder it is. The story has a nice blend of the varying time frames and readers get a great sense of life in rural England during WW II. The current activity is interesting as the police find it difficult to get dated information. They must surmise, guess, etc. In a Dry Season held my interest from the first page and I read it as non-stop as I could in order to find out what happened. I'm not a big British mystery fan, but this may change my mind. It's a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First rate in every respect - hated for the story to end! by a.j. west
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BDickens More than 1 year ago
If you haven't met DCI Banks, you need to see the human side and and how he handles the a case that involves the death of a young woman, She is thought to have run away, but instead was killed and buried, then found decades after WW11. Her story is told from the viewpoint of friend. DCI Banks is called to help out in a small town police dept. The woman is found when a reservoir drys up and the small village in the valley is revealed....a town last active during the war. Peter Robinson brings this town to life as he weaves in the past and present through investigations of the people Banks must find still living. Well done!
Marged04 More than 1 year ago
This book keeps you hopping between 2 time periods, and you really have to pay attention. I thought it was a great challenge and there were some surprises along the way! I recommend this book if you are a DCI Banks fan!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the most boring detective novels I've ever read. With a lot of unnecessary details along the way, it's really hard to stay interested and care about the characters. Not much of a mistery either. The only reason why I kept reading was my respect for the people that went through hardships of World War II, otherwise I would just completely call this a waste of time. The author attempts to combine the crime fiction genre with serious literature, trying to create a 'great miltilayer story' with 'well-developed characters', but it just doesn't work. If you are looking for good detective novel with suspense and mistery, this book is not for you. And it is certainly not a good 'serious' novel either, it is simply not deep enough. The only decent thing I found about this novel is that it doesn't have much of what you would call totally ridiculous or stupid or stereotypical, but it simply is not an interesting read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be extremely dull. Other reviewers obviously disagree, I am also disappointed to see a blurb from M. Connelly whom I greatly admire. The 'mystery' plot was secondary to Banks's love and family life. Since his personal life generated no appeal for me (even though I have two sons about Brian's age), the novel hit dudsville really fast. The trite intercutting of differing character's voices also was ineffective. The mystery itself , taking place 40 years ago, just after the war, was moderately interesting, but the solution was rushed, sort of just tagged on. Obviously, the murderer should have been Vivian, but was that too 'obvious.' Easier to have a mild mannered Yank explode, rather than the paradigmatic British spinster-crime-novelist. A murder in the present would have been appropriate--kept waiting for it. A few of the characters held my interest: Gloria, Vivian (Gwen)and, in his brief appearance, the boy who found the skeleton. I didn't respond to Banks (dull,self-indulgent, rather dense), Annie (the new woman is okay, but she needs to be put back in her box), bouncy Jenny, and all minor characters. I guess Robinson was attempting to write a psychological suspense novel, ala Ruth Rendell. He chose a poor model. I have read over 500 crime/mystery/suspense novels and only a very few have pulled it off: Thomas Cook's Breakheart Hill and Mortal Memory; Andrew Taylor's Four Last Things ( the best suspense novel I have read); River of Darkness, great on many levels. Finally, I should mention Void Moon (very underrated). I have read four novels by Robinson and could only finish two: Innocent Graves and this one. Graves has some interesting characters and a fairly good plot. Banks is dull as usual and unrealistic as a 'coppper.' There are many good to average mysteries out there: do youself a favor and find one, not written by Robinson. He is truly mediocre.