Playing with Fire (Inspector Alan Banks Series #14)

Playing with Fire (Inspector Alan Banks Series #14)

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by Peter Robinson
     
 

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Fire—It consumes futures and pasts in a terrified heartbeat, devouring damning secrets while leaving even greater mysteries in the ashes.

The night sky is ablaze as flames engulf two barges moored side by side on an otherwise empty canal. On board are the blackened remains of two human beings. To the seasoned eye, this horror was no accident, the method

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Overview

Fire—It consumes futures and pasts in a terrified heartbeat, devouring damning secrets while leaving even greater mysteries in the ashes.

The night sky is ablaze as flames engulf two barges moored side by side on an otherwise empty canal. On board are the blackened remains of two human beings. To the seasoned eye, this horror was no accident, the method so cruel and calculated that only the worst sort of fiend could have committed it. There are shocking secrets to be uncovered in the charred wreckage, grim evidence of lethal greed and twisted hunger, and of nightmare occurrences within the private confines of family. A terrible feeling is driving police inspector Alan Banks in his desperate hunt for answers—an unshakable fear that this killer's work will not be done until Banks's own world is burned to the ground.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Although Banks has adapted well to the advanced methods of forensic science (he's a quick study on gas chromatography), his patient and insightful style of detection lends itself more to the art of the personal interview. ''He had a knack for the thrust and parry, or the subtle persuasiveness of a good interrogation,'' writes Robinson, whose own talents in this department account for both the quickness of mind that makes Banks such a keen protagonist and the diversity of tongue that gives the secondary characters -- from inarticulate teenagers to bloviating art experts -- their lively individuality. — Marilyn Stasio
The Washington Post
The Banks novels are a model of dependable professionalism. Given time and a sufficient level of addiction, you could do worse than to seek out four or five and read them straight through. Like Laphroaig and Cassandra Wilson, they satisfy. — Patrick Anderson
Publishers Weekly
Edgar winner Robinson's 14th police procedural to feature Yorkshire DCI Alan Banks isn't quite up to the level of last year's superlative Close to Home, but it's nonetheless an engaging pleasure. Three victims have died in two suspicious fires: Tom McMahon, an eccentric, mostly unsuccessful local artist; Tina Aspern, a young heroin addict estranged from an abusive stepfather; and Roland Gardiner, another down-and-out chap but one who just happens to have a fireproof safe containing a substantial amount of cash and what appears to be a Turner watercolor. To solve the crimes, Banks and his team-DI Annie Cabbot and the refreshingly direct DC Winsome Jackman-pursue good old-fashioned police work, interviewing witnesses, neighbors, relatives and lovers and sifting through the evidence gathered by their specialist colleagues. They also make ample use of contemporary forensic technology. In keeping with the moody and introspective Alan Banks, the narrative style is tempered and deliberate, perhaps too much so for those who prefer, say, the riveting urgency of a Michael Connelly thriller. Characterization is Robinson's real strength. Virtually every character is etched with care, precision and emotional insight. With each book, the quietly competent Alan Banks gets more and more human; like red wine, he gets better and more interesting with age. (Jan. 20) Forecast: A nine-city author tour and a rave from Stephen King, who rarely blurbs these days, can only help solidify the Toronto-based Robinson's niche in the U.S. market. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Among the best British police procedurals published today are entries in Robinson's Inspector Banks series. Not only does each novel feature a complex and intriguing plot set against the harshly beautiful Yorkshire landscape, but each also details the emotional and psychological development of the author's melancholic hero. In this 14th outing, Banks and Annie Cabot, his associate and former lover, investigate an arson fire that destroyed two canal barges and left two charred corpses. Banks and Annie must determine who was the intended victim: Thomas McMahon, a failed artist, or Tina Aspern, a teenaged heroin addict who had fled an abusive stepfather. A second firey death a few days later leads the duo to uncover an art forgery scheme involving the great British painter J.M.W. Turner. Meanwhile, Banks finally confronts his ex-wife, who has given birth to another man's baby, and also grapples with his jealousy over Annie's involvement with an art expert hired to consult on the case. Robinson has once again penned an enthralling read. Strongly recommended for most mystery collections.[Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Everyone in Eastvale, it seems, has something to hide when DCI Alan Banks tackles a nasty case that combines arson and art fraud. The burning of two boats, along with low-flying painter Tom McMahon and druggie Tina Aspern, raises questions right from the start. Which of the rickety barges they were squatting on was the firebug's primary target? And why did Andrew Hurst, the fussy local collector who reported the blaze, bicycle out from his shack to watch it before phoning the firefighters? But Hurst is only the first of a parade of suspicious characters. There's Leslie Whitaker, the used bookseller who piously insists he doesn't know a thing about the Turneresque watercolors Tom was turning out on antique paper he bought from Whitaker. There's Danny Boy Corcoran, Tina's drug connection. There's troubled Mark Siddons, the remorseful day laborer who'd quarreled with Tina and left her alone on the boat, and there's Dr. Patrick Aspern, the chilly stepfather she'd accused of driving her from home by abusing her repeatedly. Even Phil Keane, the London art authenticator who's been dating Banks's colleague and ex-lover DI Annie Cabbot, starts to look suspicious to the jealous Banks. Whom can he trust to tell the truth about this hydra-headed case? As in Close to Home (2003), Robinson's customary insight into the wavering line between normalcy and unblinking evil is intensified by a sins-of-the-fathers fatalism. P.D. James, meet Ross Macdonald. Author tour
People
“So vivid that even those who aren’t usually fans of procedural thrillers will fill their fingers burning.”
Booklist
"Robinson has won just about every mystery award there is….His latest shows why."
Time Out London
“Taut, carefully thought out…with plots that are refreshingly cliché-free.”
The Independent (London)
“Cunning…authentic and atmospheric.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Exquisitely complex and atmospheric.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“The equal of legends in the genre such as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Robinson has won just about every mystery award there is….His latest shows why.”
Washington Post
“Smooth as single malt.”
Boston Globe
Peter Robinson is:“A gifted creator of fully fleshed and vividly present characters.”
New York Times Book Review
“[Robinson’s] talents...account for both the quickness of mind that makes Banks such a keen protagonist.”
People (Critic's Choice)
“So vivid that even those who aren’t usually fans of procedural thrillers will fill their fingers burning.”
Daily News
“A taut pleasure.”
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
“Crime fiction at its best.”
Houston Chronicle
“A skillful writer…”
London Sunday Times
“Complex and intelligent.”
Tampa Tribune
“Robinson is on a winning streak.”
Montreal Gazette
“Robinson is not just a master storyteller, he’s a literary magician.”
Orlando Sentinel
“Absorbing…Robinson continues to stretch the boundaries of the standard procedural.”
Sunday Telegraph
“Different and intriguing.”
Chicago Tribune
“[PLAYING WITH FIRE] has a loud ring of truth and a good deal of suspense.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“Splendid.”
(Critic's Choice) - People Magazine
"So vivid that even those who aren’t usually fans of procedural thrillers will fill their fingers burning."
Dennis Lehane
The novels of Peter Robinson are: “Deeply nuanced works of art.”
Stephen King
“The Alan Banks mystery-suspense novels are, simply put, the best series now on the market.”
Nevada Barr
“Stunningly complex and intricately plotted....Peter Robinson fools and entertains me with every twist.”
The Independent(London)
"Cunning…authentic and atmospheric."
Lady - Antonia Fraser
"A happy discovery."
Otto Penzler
“Robinson actually seems to grow in front of our eyes, delivering books of greater complexity each time.”
From the Publisher
"The Alan Banks mystery-suspense novels are, simply put, the best series now on the market. In fact, this may be the best series of British novels since the novels of Patrick O'Brian. Try one and tell me I'm wrong."
— Stephen King

“As astute a writer as P.D. James.”
Library Journal

“From the first paragraph you are hooked.”
Glasgow Evening Times

“Robinson’s seamless melding of crime and character shows [him] at the top of his game.”
Globe and Mail

“A complex, satisfying read. . . . Banks is the quintessential English hero.”
The Observer

“Robinson has won just about every mystery award there is. His latest shows why.”
Booklist (starred review)

“The Banks books just get better and better.”
Calgary Herald

“Robinson is incapable of writing a dull sentence.”
People

Lady Antonia Fraser
“A happy discovery.”
Lady Antonia Fraser in the London Sunday Times
“A happy discovery.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061835452
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/17/2009
Series:
Inspector Alan Banks Series , #14
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
48,324
File size:
564 KB

Read an Excerpt

Playing with Fire

Chapter One

The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, burn'd on the water," Banks whispered. As he spoke, his breath formed plumes of mist in the chill January air.

Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, standing beside him, must have heard, because she said, "You what? Come again."

"A quotation," said Banks. "From Anthony and Cleopatra."

"You don't usually go around quoting Shakespeare like a copper in a book," Annie commented.

"Just something I remember from school. It seemed appropriate."

They were standing on a canal bank close to dawn watching two barges smolder. Not usually the sort of job for a detective chief inspector like Banks, especially so early on a Friday morning, but as soon as it had been safe enough for the firefighters to board the barges, they had done so and found one body on each. One of the firefighters had recently completed a course on fire investigation, and he had noticed possible evidence of accelerant use when he boarded the barge. He had called the local constable, who in turn had called Western Area Police Headquarters, Major Crimes, so here was Banks, quoting Shakespeare and waiting for the fire investigation officer to arrive.

"Were you in it, then?" Annie asked.

"In what?"

"Anthony and Cleopatra."

"Good Lord, no. Third spear-carrier in Julius Caesar was the triumph of my school acting career. We did it for O-Level English, and I had to memorize the speech."

Banks held the lapels of his overcoat over his throat. Even with the Leeds United scarf his son Brian had bought him for his birthday, he still felt the chill. Annie sneezed, and Banks felt guilty for dragging her out in the early hours. The poor lass had been battling with a cold for the last few days. But his sergeant, Jim Hatchley, was even worse; he had been off sick with flu most of the week.

They had just arrived at the dead-end branch of the canal, which lay three miles south of Eastvale, linking the River Swain to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, and hence to the whole network of waterways that crisscrossed the country. The canal ran through some beautiful countryside, and tonight the usually quiet rural area was floodlit and buzzing with activity, noisy with the shouts of firefighters and the crackle of personal radios. The smell of burned wood, plastic and rubber hung in the air and scratched at the back of Banks's throat when he breathed in. All around the lit-up area, the darkness of a pre-dawn winter night pressed in, starless and cold. The media had already arrived, mostly TV crews, because fires made for good visuals, even after they had gone out, but the firefighters and police officers kept them well at bay, and the scene was secure.

As far as Banks had been able to ascertain, the branch ran straight north for about a hundred yards before it ended in a tangle of shrubbery that eventually became dry land. Nobody at the scene remembered whether it had ever led anywhere or had simply been used as a mooring, or for easier access to the local limestone for which the region was famous. It was possible, someone suggested, that the branch had been started as a link to the center of Eastvale itself, then abandoned due to lack of funds or the steepness of the gradient.

"Christ, it's cold," moaned Annie, stamping from foot to foot. She was mostly obscured by an old army greatcoat she had thrown on over her jeans and polo-neck sweater. She was also wearing a matching maroon woolly hat, scarf and gloves, along with black knee-high leather boots. Her nose was red.

"You'd better go and talk to the firefighters," Banks said. "Get their stories while events are still fresh in their minds. You never know, maybe one of them will warm you up a bit."

"Cheeky bastard." Annie sneezed, blew her nose and wandered off, reaching in her deep pocket for her notebook. Banks watched her go and wondered again whether his suspicions were correct. It was nothing concrete, just a slight change in her manner and appearance, but he couldn't help feeling that she was seeing someone, and had been for the past while. Not that it was any of his business. Annie had broken off their relationship ages ago, but -- he didn't like to admit this -- he was feeling pangs of jealousy. Stupid, really, as he had been seeing DI Michelle Hart on and off since the previous summer. But he couldn't deny the feeling.

The young constable, who had been talking to the leading firefighter, walked over to Banks and introduced himself: PC Smythe, from the nearest village, Molesby.

"So you're the one responsible for waking me up at this ungodly hour in the morning," said Banks.

PC Smythe paled. "Well, sir, it seemed ... I ..."

"It's okay. You did the right thing. Can you fill me in?"

"There's not much to add, really, sir." Smythe looked tired and drawn, as well he might. He hardly seemed older than twelve, and this was probably his first major incident.

"Who called it in?" Banks asked.

"Bloke called Hurst. Andrew Hurst. Lives in the old lockkeeper's house about a mile away. He says he was just going to bed shortly after one o'clock, and he saw the fire from his bedroom window. He knew roughly where it was coming from, so he rode over to check it out."

"Rode?"

"Bicycle, sir."

"Okay. Go on."

"That's about it. When he saw the fire, he phoned it in on his mobile, and the fire brigade arrived. They had a bit of trouble gaining access, as you can see. They had to run long hoses."

Banks could see the fire engines parked about a hundred yards away ...

Playing with Fire. Copyright © by Peter Robinson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Stephen King
“The Alan Banks mystery-suspense novels are, simply put, the best series now on the market.”
Otto Penzler
“Robinson actually seems to grow in front of our eyes, delivering books of greater complexity each time.”
Lady Antonia Fraser
“A happy discovery.”
Nevada Barr
“Stunningly complex and intricately plotted....Peter Robinson fools and entertains me with every twist.”
Dennis Lehane
The novels of Peter Robinson are: “Deeply nuanced works of art.”

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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Playing with Fire (Inspector Alan Banks Series #14) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first book by Peter R, he kept the story moving in ways that made me think about the ending--very surprising!
Lisbeth75 More than 1 year ago
This book had a lot of tension - could not put it down, like to read more from the same authore
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another winner by Peter Robinson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love Inspector Banks
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Robinson. It was well-written, had a good plot, and a nice selection of characters and suspects. However, it could have used more "page turner" suspense. I'll try another soon to compare.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will read more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like one other reader said a fine use of descriptives..but used them too much. I had to skip over alot of things that just didn't need to be in there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Near the village Molesby, a firefighter noticed that an accelerant may have caused the inferno that destroyed two barges and killed two people in the dead end canal. The Western Area Police Headquarters Major Crimes took over the investigation into what caused the deaths of the two charred corpses that if not for the firefighter¿s recent class and observation would have been written off as accidental deaths of apparent squatters. Inspector Alan Banks and Detective Inspector Anne Cabbot lead the inquiries. Before they leave the scene the police catch a young man Mark who says he lived on one of the burned out barge and asks if Tina escaped. He mentions a Tom lived on the other barge........................................ Banks and Detective Inspector Anne Cabbot follow up on Mark¿s alibi and soon make other inquiries trying to determine if an accident, arson, or a deliberate murder cover-up occurred. Surprisingly the investigation turns into a complex inferno as several individuals have motives and opportunities to kill either of the deceased...................................... The latest Banks investigation is an exciting tale that hooks the audience from the moment the hero quotes Shakespeare¿s Anthony and Cleopatra. The story line never slows down even when it shines on the personal lives of the lead duo as the inspectors dig deep seeking motive and opportunity on what turns out to be several prime suspects. When it comes to British police procedurals, fans know that they can always bank on Peter Robinson to provide the best.................................. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Robinson displays fine use of his descriptive abilities...over and over and over again. As a result, I found myself skipping over most sections trying to find the 'meat' of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such obnoxious jerks both protagonists are! I don't enjoy reading acout self-righteous, bullying cops (unless they get their comeuppance, and, alas, these don't). This author is so ignorant and smugly certain that cops deserve special privileges just because they are cops. This is not exactly an innovative novelistic approach. As a result, the book is boring, as well as offensive. Unless you are yourself that kind of bad cop, don't waste your money.