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Piece of My Heart (Inspector Alan Banks Series #16)

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1969 . . . In an era of free love and rebellion, a dead body is discovered among the detritus of a recently concluded rock festival—a beautiful young woman stabbed so savagely through the chest that a piece of her heart was sliced off.

Now . . . A freelance journalist, a stranger to the region, is savagely bludgeoned to death in a shocking act of violence with no apparent motive.

Two murders separated by four decades are investigated by two ...

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Piece of My Heart (Inspector Alan Banks Series #16)

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1969 . . . In an era of free love and rebellion, a dead body is discovered among the detritus of a recently concluded rock festival—a beautiful young woman stabbed so savagely through the chest that a piece of her heart was sliced off.

Now . . . A freelance journalist, a stranger to the region, is savagely bludgeoned to death in a shocking act of violence with no apparent motive.

Two murders separated by four decades are investigated by two very different but equally haunted investigators—one, a casualty of war unable to come to terms with a confusing new world; the other, a rogue policeman harboring ghosts of his own. But the truth behind a grisly present-day slaying may somehow be hidden in the amplified, drug-induced fog of a notorious past, propelling Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks into the darkest shadows of the peace, love, and rock 'n' roll generation.

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Editorial Reviews

Stephen King
“The best series now on the market.”
Michael Connelly
“Wonderful...multi-layered mystery.”
Ian Rankin
“Prepare for a crash course in taut, clean writing and subtle psychology.”
London Times
“Robinson has kept up an astonishingly high standard...make no mistake, he’s among the very best.”
Washington Post Book World
Raleigh News & Observer
“A fast-moving story [with] some knockout scenery and an assemblage of delicately drawn characters.”
Janet Maslin
Banks is one of the most fully drawn figures in this genre of fiction, largely because Mr. Robinson invests him with so many opinions and such a firmly rooted presence in the real world. This character's unassuming nature is a dryly humorous part of his appeal.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Det. Insp. Alan Banks investigates the apparently motiveless murder of Nicholas Barber, a rock journalist from London visiting a small town near Banks's Yorkshire police precinct, in Robinson's less-than-stellar 14th novel to feature the Yorkshire police detective. Meanwhile, another mystery unfolds in a parallel narrative, the fatal stabbing of a young woman at a local rock festival back in 1969. Needless to say, the cases are intertwined-as Banks puts it, "the past is never over"-and part of the pleasure is trying to piece together the links. Unfortunately, Robinson takes too long to connect the two stories, and the earlier thread suffers from the lack of Banks's engaging presence (though it does capture, with great fidelity, that odd mixture of self-absorption and idealism of the late 1960s and the whole hippie/rock music scene). As always, the author's prose is clear, observant and intelligent, but the story itself is not nearly as compelling as 2005's Strange Affair. 6-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It's 1969, and a body has been found in a field after an outdoor rock festival. Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick, a hardened and uncompromising man with a frank distaste for the counterculture crowd, is assigned to the case. In Robinson's (Strange Affair) latest series entry, scenes from this story alternate with the present-day experiences of Inspector Alan Banks, whose latest case entails finding the killer of a freelance journalist. Clues elude Banks and his coworker, Annie Cabbot, until an interview with the murder victim's girlfriend reveals that the journalist was writing a feature story on a popular 1960s rock band and had managed to secure a crucial interview before dying. Banks suspects the journalist might have uncovered information someone wanted to keep hidden. The unsavory and unromantic side of the hippie culture is woven into both investigations, as indiscriminate drug use and "free love" wreak havoc on the lives of several characters. Recommended. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 12/05.] Linda Oliver, MLIS, Colorado Springs Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Two murders, 36 years apart, turn out to be linked in the latest Inspector Banks case from Robinson (Strange Affair, 2005, etc.). Cutting between parallel plots is a hallmark of Robinson's work, but this time he so fully develops two murder cases that he effectively turns out two thrillers in one. The first murder occurs during a Yorkshire rock concert in 1969: A young woman, bearing multiple stab wounds, lies dead in a sleeping bag. The second murder occurs in the present: During a blackout, someone, using a poker, bashes in the head of a freelance journalist. The writer's papers and computer are missing, leaving Banks guessing that the writer's information and personal details explain the motive. Further clues are scant, save for a numerical code penciled into the flyleaf of a novel and some details offered by a young girl who had had a brief affair with the writer, much to her father's disdain. Paternal ire also colors the earlier case as Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick scours the rock group that performed at the concert and the friends of his rebellious daughter Yvonne for a suspect. Music, sex and drugs rive parent-child relationships on all fronts, though Banks, who's had a run of bad luck lately, gets on better with his son than Chadwick, a bitter, melancholy man, does with his daughter. Intent on finding the killer, Chadwick puts a flake who attempted to rape his daughter in jail for the murder. Chadwick's zeal was misguided, the sharp-eyed Banks realizes, once he discovers the connection between the two cases. Now Banks must set straight what happened in the past as he continues searching for answers to what took place in the present. What is more satisfying than one solidRobinson mystery? Two solid Robinson mysteries, expertly entwined, offering twice the usual pleasures.
From the Publisher
Piece of My Heart is rather brilliant.”
— Mo Hayder, Globe and Mail

“What is more satisfying than one solid Robinson mystery? Two solid mysteries, expertly entwined, offering twice the usual pleasure.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Robinson at his best. . . . a killer of a book.”
Hamilton Spectator

“Among the best books in the crime fiction genre. It is, indeed, the sort of crime novel that transcends its genre.” — Calgary Herald

“Remarkable series . . . Robinson expertly brings his little postage stamp of native soil to life . . . Chief Inspector Banks remains a flawed but decent man, the type of person encountered in real life commonly enough but rarely seen in fiction. He’s good company.”
New York Times

“First rate . . . an addictive crime series . . . bet you can’t read just one.”
New York Times

“Peter Robinson takes the straightforward police procedural and transforms it into something approaching art.”
Calgary Herald

Praise for Strange Affair:

“Moody, atmospheric, exciting and deftly plotted. Another explosive read from Robinson.”
Hamilton Spectator

“Magical storytelling. What [Peter Robinson] produces here is extraordinary.”
Ottawa Citizen

“Peter Robinson builds a mean mystery.”
Montreal Gazette

“The best Banks book in years.”
Winnipeg Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060544362
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/24/2007
  • Series: Inspector Alan Banks Series , #16
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 243,969
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Robinson's award-winning Inspector Banks novels have been named a "Best Book of the Year" by Publishers Weekly, a "Notable Book" by the New York Times, and a "Page Turner of the Week" by People. Robinson was born and brought up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between North America and the U.K.

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Read an Excerpt

Piece of My Heart

A Novel of Suspense
By Peter Robinson

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Peter Robinson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006054435X

Chapter One

Monday, 8th September, 1969

To an observer looking down from the peak of Brimleigh Beacon early that Monday morning, the scene below might have resembled the aftermath of a battle. It had rained briefly during the night, and the pale sun coaxed tendrils of mist from the damp earth. They swirled over fields dotted with motionless shapes, mingling here and there with the darker smoke of smoldering embers. Human scavengers picked their way through the carnage as if collecting discarded weapons, occasionally bending to extract an object of value from a dead man's pocket. Others appeared to be shoveling soil or quicklime into large open graves. The light wind carried a whiff of rotting flesh.

And over the whole scene a terrible stillness reigned.

But to Dave Sampson, down on the field, there had been no battle, only a peaceful gathering, and Dave had the worm's-eye view. It was just after 8:00 a.m., and he had been up half the night along with everyone else listening to Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. Now, the crowd had gone home, and he was moving among the motionless shapes, litter left behind by the vanished hordes, helping to clean up after the very first Brimleigh Festival.Here he was, bent over, back aching like hell, eyes burning with tiredness, plodding across the muddy field picking up rubbish. The eerie sounds of Jimmy Page playing his electric guitar with a violin bow still echoed in his mind as he shoved cellophane wrappers and half-eaten Mars bars into his plastic bag.

Ants and beetles crawled over the remains of sandwiches and half-empty tins of cold baked beans. Flies buzzed around the feces and wasps hovered about the necks of empty pop bottles. More than once, Dave had to maneuver sharply to avoid being stung. He couldn't believe some of the stuff people left behind. Food wrappers, soggy newspapers and magazines, used Durex, tampons, cigarette ends, knickers, empty beer cans and roaches you'd expect, but what on earth had the person who left the Underwood typewriter been thinking of? Or the wooden crutch? Had a cripple, suddenly healed by the music, run off and left it behind?

There were other things, too, things best avoided. The makeshift toilets set over the open cesspit had been uninviting, as well as few and far between, and the queues had been long, encouraging more than one desperate person to find a quiet spot elsewhere in the field. Dave glanced toward the craters and felt glad that he wasn't one of the volunteers assigned to fill them up with earth.

In an otherwise isolated spot at the southern edge of the field, where the land rose gently toward the fringes of Brimleigh Woods, Dave noticed an abandoned sleeping bag. The closer he got, the more it looked to be occupied. Had someone passed out or simply gone to sleep? More likely, Dave thought, it was drugs. All night the medical tent had been open to people suffering hallucinations from bad acid, and there had been enough Mandrax and opiated hash around to knock out an army.

Dave prodded the bag with his foot. It felt soft and heavy. He prodded it again, harder this time. Still nothing. It definitely felt as if there was someone inside. Finally, he bent and pulled the zip, and when he saw what was there, he wished he hadn't.

Monday, 8th September, 1969

Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick was at his desk in Brotherton House before eight o'clock Monday morning, as usual, with every intention of finishing off the paperwork that had piled up during his two weeks' annual leave at the end of August. The caravan at Primrose Valley, with Janet and Yvonne, had made a nice haven for a while, but Yvonne was obviously restless as only a sixteen-year-old on holiday with her parents can be, and crime didn't stop while he was away from Leeds. Nor, apparently, did the paperwork.

It had been a good weekend. Yorkshire beat Derbyshire in the Gillette Cup Final, and if Leeds United, coming off a season as league champions, hadn't managed to beat Manchester United at home, at least they had come out of it with a 2-2 draw, and Billy Bremner had scored.

The only blot on the landscape was that Yvonne had stayed out most of the night on Sunday, and it wasn't the first time. Chadwick had lain awake until he heard her come in at about half past six, and by then it was time for him to get up and get ready for work. Yvonne had gone straight to her room and closed her door, so he had put off the inevitable confrontation until later, and now it was gnawing at him. He didn't know what was happening to his daughter, what she was up to, but whatever it was, it frightened him. It seemed that the younger generation had been getting stranger and stranger over the past few years, more out of control, and Chadwick felt unable to find any point of connection with them anymore. Most of them were like members of another species to him now. Especially his own daughter.

Chadwick tried to shake off his worries about Yvonne and glanced over the crime sheets: trouble with squatters in a Leeds city center office building; a big drugs bust in Chapeltown; an assault on a woman with a stone in a sock in Bradford. Manningham Lane, he noticed, and everyone knew what kind of women you found on Manningham Lane. Still, poor cow, nobody deserved to be hit with a stone in a sock. Just over the county border, in the North Riding, the Brimleigh Festival had gone off peacefully enough, with only a few arrests for drunkenness and drug dealing -- only to be expected at such an event -- and a bit of bother with some skinheads at one of the fences.


Excerpted from Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson Copyright © 2006 by Peter Robinson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

1. "They say that if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there." Piece of My Heart is partly a story about the past. How do you feel when you read about the 1960s? If you were alive then, do you agree with the above statement? If you weren’t alive or were too young to remember that decade, do you care about what happened back then? How do your feelings about the 1960s affect your enjoyment of this story?

2. Peter Robinson grew up in Britain and sets his Inspector Banks novels in Yorkshire, England, but he has lived in Canada for many years. His novels make use of many British phrases, such as "vast tip," "bloke," "pulling the birds," "O levels," and "shag." Does the use of these Briticisms increase your enjoyment of the story? Do you think living in Canada for decades might change how the author uses British terms in his writing? Do you think North American English has had an effect on British language since the 1960s? Is that change reflected in this story?

3. "It was a wild October night outside. Banks could hear the wind screaming and moaning and see the dark shadows of tree branches tossing and thrashing beyond the kitchen window." In Piece of My Heart, the weather is often mentioned and seems to change as the story progresses. What are some of the types of weather found in this story, and how does the weather relate to the action of the plot and the mood of the characters when it is depicted?

4. Why do you think the author chose two quotes, one by Goya and one by Shakespeare, to precede this story? What does each quote mean? How does it relate to the plot and the theme of this story? How do you feel about authors prefacing their stories with quotes from other writers?

5. Piece of My Heart is the type of mystery novel usually referred to as a "police procedural." Because the story shows the police at work in two different times, the 1960s and the present, the reader can see both old and new police procedures applied to the same problems, for example, the analysis of blood patterns at the crime scene. What procedures have remained the same despite the passage of time? What are some procedures available to Alan Banks, but not to Stanley Chadwick? Are the new ways necessarily better? Can you think of ways in which Chadwick’s case would have been solved differently had newer techniques been available to him? Did new techniques allow Banks to find out things Chadwick could not have known about the murder of Linda Lofthouse? Or did Banks depend mostly on the time-honoured methods used by detectives?

6. What are some of the techniques the author uses to make transitions between the "old" mystery in this story and the "new" mystery?

7. Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Mojo magazine . . . does the inclusion of real celebrities and factual information about the entertainment world increase your enjoyment of this novel? Why?

8. This story, like actual police procedures in a homicide investigation, depends on interviewing suspects. Does Chadwick’s interview style differ from Banks’s? If you were being interviewed in a murder investigation, with which detective, Chadwick or Banks, would you be most likely to co-operate? Would this choice differ if you were guilty?

9. In what ways do you feel Banks’s personal life enhances his skills as a detective? In what ways does Chadwick’s personal life inhibit his skill as a detective? And vice versa?

10. What is the physical piece of a heart in this story? What is the metaphorical or symbolic piece of a heart? How does this symbol relate to the treatment of the many different parent-child relationships in the book? Consider Yvonne and Stanley Chadwick, Brian and Alan Banks, Kelly and Calvin Soames, and Nick Barber and his parents.

11. Annie Cabbot thinks, "You get to know the dead, become their voice in a way, because they can no longer speak for themselves." Do homicide investigators speak for the dead? How does that idea make you feel about characters like Banks and Cabbot? How do you feel when a murderer goes uncaught and unpunished?

12. The quality called "immediacy" means the writer’s ability to put you, the reader, right on the scene, often through detailed description. Look at some of the locales of this story: the rock concert, the village, the neighbourhoods of London, the pubs, the police station. By what means does the author achieve immediacy in these scenes?

13. Both Vic Greaves and Patrick McGarrity are "weirdos." Is it natural to suspect odd people of criminal behaviour? Is it fair? Can you think of any real cases in which eccentrics like McGarrity and Greaves have been convicted of crimes because of their offbeat habits?

14. In the 1960s storyline, Keith Enderby says, "And girls these days think there ought to be more for them in life. They want to work, for example, and get paid as much as men for doing the same job." Has this changed? How does the juxtaposition of the two times — the 1960s and the present — in this story show you that the world has changed in the past forty years? What does this juxtaposition tell you about things that haven’t changed?

15. Unlike other Banks books, in this one, the detective has no love interest. Can you see any character in this story who might become a love interest for Banks in a future story?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 23, 2009

    Rewarding as always

    this series always rewards and always leaves me wanting more. I enjoy my time with these characters. Piece of My Heart is weak in only one respect, namely that it is overplotted. The pieces of the puzzle just manage to fit together but there are sooo many. I think he is right on target with his evocation of the British invasion and the current lives of musicians of that era rings true. The Banks novels don't really qualify as a guilty pleasure since they are so well-written that I feel no shame whatsoever.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Rreaders obtain two wonderful cases, historical andcurrent in one book

    In September 1969, now the morning after the first Brimleigh Festival, Dave Sampson feels good about its success. Much of the crowd has left with volunteers cleaning the mess they left behind. Dave notices a sleeping bag that appears as if someone is inside when he unzips it he finds a dead body. Assigned to investigate the homicide is die hard WWII veteran Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick, who detests the dirty hippies. The only nebulous clue so far is the victim apparently had ties to psychedelic band the Mad Hatters. -------------- - Three plus decades later in the isolated hamlet of Fordham, Inspector Alan Banks investigates the murder of Nick Barber, a freelance music journalist who was writing an article on aging rock stars the Mad Hatters for MOJO magazine. Banks learns of the homicide thirty five years ago at the rock festival and wonders if there is a connection as he has problems accepting tragic coincidence. He continues to make inquiries while pondering whether Nick solved the 1969 murder leading to his subsequent death.------------ The sixteenth Banks British police procedural is a superb entry that is freshened up by the 1969 investigation that fascinatingly compares police methodology and attitude with the present day inquiries. The fascinating story line switches effortlessly back and forth between the two eras as the audience observes Chadwick¿s efforts vs. that of Banks. Thus readers obtain two wonderful cases, historical and current, while wondering along with Banks what Barber learned that killed him.-------------- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson

    I don't think Peter Robinson can write a bad book. His characters are riveting, his plot tangled, and his aura of mystique about the area he writes about is right-on, since I have been there. I hope he continues to write about Alan Banks who is so real, with a fine sense of right and wrong.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2006

    Back up to speed next time?

    The shifting between the present and the past is irritating and is seldom a good idea in a novel. How any kind of interest could be generated about a group called the Mad Hatters remains a mystery to me. Not much going on at the Banks scene either: the interrupted dinners caused by a call to a murder scene was stale ages ago. I must say I've read every other Alan Banks book with enthusiasm but this one was way below par in the series. Am looking forward to a better effort next time.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    double mystery from a first-rate writer

    Thought you'd left the `60s rock `n roll scene far behind? Not so in Peter Robinson's remarkably conceived crime story in which he connects two criminal investigations - one which takes place in 1969 and the other in 2005. Seems that in the earlier case a young woman was found dead in her sleeping bag following a music festival. She had been murdered and was discovered among the bottles, drug paraphernalia and other leavings common to a British outdoor concert at that time. As it turns out she was slain during a Led Zeppelin set. Who was she and why was she killed? All readers initially know is that she had some dealings with a fictional rock band, the Mad Hatters. This doesn't seem at all the type of crime usually associated with Robinson's popular protagonist Detective Chief Alan Banks. At the present he has more than he can handle. As readers of Strange Affair may remember Banks recently lost his brother, and now he is called to investigate the murder of a stranger who came to Yorkshire a short while ago and then was fatally crowned with a poker. As it turns out the journalist was working on a piece for MOJO magazine about the Mad Hatters. And, what a band they were - one member went over the deep end (mentally), another drowned in the shallow end of a swimming pool. Thus are Banks and Detective Inspector Stanley Chadwick, who was assigned to the dead girl's case, drawn together and readers are treated to twin narratives as the mystery of why there is any connection between the two murders is revealed. Two mysteries for the price of one, both crafted by one of the best writers around. - Gail Cooke

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2006

    This did not 'rock' me at all...

    A real let down compared to the other books I have read in this Alan Banks series. The rock music subject matter did not work like past topics and failed to hold my interest. A real snoozer. Better luck next time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2006

    Loved this book

    This was my first book by Peter Robinson that I have read, but it won't be my last. I really enjoyed it. I thought the characters were well thought out and the decription of the 60's was very realistic. If all of Mr. Robinson's books are this good, I look forward to reading each and every one of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2006

    Better and better

    Peter Robinson's series of books around Chief Inspector Banks are a joy to read and his latest is his best yet. I am a Yorkshireman and know the territory well where his books are based and he is accurate in his detail of the area. His Police procedural is also 100% correct and this story grips one from the very first page. I am biased for the above reasons and I have every book written by PR and await his next one with impatience. If you are a 'I don't know this writer' do not hesitate - buy this book for the quality of story and writing.

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