Playing with Fire (Inspector Alan Banks Series #14)by Peter Robinson
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When the bodies of two squatters are found in the burning remains of a couple of derelict barges, Inspector Alan Banks has to wonder whether one of their occupations caused their deaths. One victim was a local artist, with plenty of turpentine and oil paint at hand; the other was a young woman, a junkie, who evidently shot up her final fix just before the fire started. But if the fire was an accident, why did her boyfriend bolt from the scene when the police arrived? And why did the neighbour who discovered the fire not call it in right away?
As they start their investigation, Banks and his colleague (and former lover), DI Annie Cabbot, find more than enough motives for murder – and more than one person with a reason to kill. Worse, one of the two detectives themselves discovers firsthand the seductive thrill and terrible danger of playing with fire.
In his fourteenth Inspector Banks mystery, Peter Robinson once more displays his extraordinary skill in creating memorable characters, a haunting narrative, and a subtly unveiled plot, a talent that has made him one of the best writers of crime fiction in the world today.
About the Author: One of the best writers of crime fiction in Canada today, and among the very best internationally, Peter Robinson is the author of twelve previous Inspector Banks novels, including Aftermath, which garnered rave reviews from readers and critics. His books have won or been short-listed for numerous awards, including the prestigious John Creasy Award (U.K.), the Edgar Award (U.S.), the Martin Beck Award (Sweden), and the Arthur Ellis Award (Canada). He lives in Toronto.
— 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.”
Read an Excerpt
Playing with Fire
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.
"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."
"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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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. He divides his time between Toronto and England.
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This is my first book by Peter R, he kept the story moving in ways that made me think about the ending--very surprising!
This book had a lot of tension - could not put it down, like to read more from the same authore
Another winner by Peter Robinson
Love Inspector Banks
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.
I will read more from this author.
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.
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
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.
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.