From the Publisher
“I can’t imagine a more flawless police procedural than Strange Affair.… This is a thoroughly modern novel, even though it’s not technical wizardry that allows Banks to solve the crime. Instead, he draws on his peristent willingness to look human nature in the eye unflinchingly.”
–Rosemary Aubert, Globe and Mail
“Peter Robinson takes the straightforward police procedural and transforms it into something approaching art.”
“Moody, atmospheric, exciting and deftly plotted. Another explosive read from Robinson.”
“Magical storytelling. What [Peter Robinson] produces here is extraordinary.”
“Smart and shapely . . . immaculately constructed.”
— New York Times Book Review
“Superlative. . . . Deeply absorbing.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A damn fine crime novel . . . like a master class in crime fiction.”
— Baltimore Sun
The Barnes & Noble Review
Edgar and Anthony Award-winning author Peter Robinson's fourth book is a gritty tale of brothers at odds and a story of unexpected connections. Alan and Roy Banks were never close. Alan was a normal teenager with a chaotic room and appalling taste in music. Roy was compulsively neat and kept a lock on his toy box. Alan went on to become Detective Chief Inspector Banks, with a solid, if not always shining, police career. And Roy, estranged from his brother, became a wealthy entrepreneur. Then Roy disappears, and Alan's search for him soon confirms his long-held suspicion that Roy has been operating on the shady side of the law.
When a murdered woman is found in possession of a piece of paper with Alan's name scrawled on it, Alan must dig deeper into his brother's shadow life. The discovery of the dead woman's connection to a doctor who treated prostitutes off the books as a "public service" gives credence to Alan's fears. Bit by bit, Alan's investigation reveals the sickening evidence of Roy's involvement in kidnapping and prostitution. But recently, something must have changed. The Roy he's unwillingly come to know wouldn't have given up his ill-gotten gains lightly or easily.
As Alan begins to wonder whether his brother finally got mixed up in a crime so terrible that even he had objected, it gradually becomes clear that Alan himself is in deep trouble. He's already learned enough to become a target for whoever had the ruthlessness and power to make his black-sheep brother disappear. Sue Stone
Banks admits that he had assumed that prostitutes were in the business by choice, but the Interpol man shows him that is often not the case. In exploring the issue of sexual slavery, Robinson joins other crime writers, and many journalists, in casting a light on dark corners of our society. John Lescroart's The Motive, reviewed here recently, took a hard look at another urgent issue, prosecutorial misconduct, as have numerous lawyers who have turned to fiction. It is heartening to see first-rate writers like Robinson and Lescroart becoming, in effect, muckrakers, for ours is a world with an inexhaustible supply of muck that needs raking.
The Washington Post
"Definitely not your everyday quaffing plonk," Mr. Robinson writes descriptively in Strange Affair, abiding by two strict rules of this genre: mention snacks and beverages as often as possible, and don't stint on the colorful lingo. But the small stuff is deftly fused with an engrossing crime story, which also includes the murder of an unknown woman traveling along a highway. Mr. Robinson stocks the book with chapter-ending cliffhangers, among other good reasons to follow his well-crafted story. His finishing stroke of evil is a startling one, even by these books' standards of deviant behavior.
The New York Times
In his last outing (Playing With Fire), Insp. Alan Banks nearly died when a serial killer set fire to his cottage in the Yorkshire village of Eastvale, and the melancholic detective remains understandably depressed as this superlative 15th novel in the series gets underway. Living in a rented flat, Banks is struggling to put his life back together when an urgent phone message from his younger brother, Roy-a successful, slightly shady London businessman-requests his help: "It could be a matter of life and death.... Maybe even mine." When he can't reach Roy by phone, Banks travels to London to see what's wrong and finds his brother's house unlocked and no hint about where he might have gone or why. On the night of Roy's phone call, a young woman is shot to death in her car just outside of Eastvale, and she has Banks's name and address in her pocket. Annie Cabbot, Banks's colleague on the force (and a former lover), is in charge of that case, and her investigation quickly intersects with Banks's unofficial sleuthing into his brother's inexplicable disappearance. The gripping story, which revolves around that most heinous of crimes, human trafficking, shows Robinson getting more adept at juggling complex plot lines while retaining his excellent skills at characterization. The result is deeply absorbing, and the nuances of Banks's character are increasingly compelling. Agent, Dominick Abel. (Feb. 15) Forecast: Robinson's reputation in the States (he is English and lives in Canada) continues to build. With the help of a big marketing campaign and an eight-city author tour, this could be a breakout novel for him. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is still recovering from a fire that almost took his life (in Playing With Fire) when his estranged brother Roy leaves a message on his machine pleading for his help. When he cannot reach Roy, Alan travels to London and finds his brother's house unlocked and Roy nowhere to be found. Meanwhile back in Eastvale, a woman has been found, shot to death execution-style. In her back pocket is Banks's address, leaving Detective Inspector Annie Cabot to try to figure out who the girl is and where Alan has disappeared to. When the two finally meet up in London, they must work through their personal differences before they can resolve the two crimes. After a break with a standalone novel (The First Cut), Robinson returns to a police procedural series that just keeps getting better. Recommended for all mystery collections. Robinson lives in Toronto. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 10/1/04.]-Deborah Shippy, Moline P.L., IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A late-night call from a brother who's practically a stranger sends Alan Banks back to another round of soul-searching and skeleton-rattling. Chief Inspector Banks misses the call because following the loss of his cottage to an arsonist (Playing with Fire, 2004), he's out drinking and extending a dinner invitation that's shot down. The message he gets instead from his dodgy brother Roy is both urgent and vague: You're the only one who can help me in what could be a matter of life or death, so call me. When Roy doesn't answer his phone, Banks decides to use his vacation to track him down. He breaks into Roy's posh home in Kensington, rifles his papers, and searches his computer as if Roy were a particularly vicious criminal, but gets nowhere. Meanwhile, Banks's colleagues back in North Yorkshire Major Crimes have their own case: the shooting of Jennifer Clewes, administrative director at a women's health center who was carrying Banks's address in her pocket. Clearly the two riddles are connected, but fans of Robinson's acclaimed series won't expect any special ingenuity in linking them up. A keener disappointment is the absence of any new characters as interesting as Banks and his squad, whose ever-changing relationships provide not only the usual sharp vignettes but much of the momentum you'd expect from the mystery. Below Robinson's high average, then, though he's always worth reading. Mystery Guild featured alternate selection; author tour. Agent: Dominick Abel/Dominick Abel Associates
“Smart and shapely ... immaculately constructed.”
“Deeply nuanced works of art.”
“The Alan Banks mystery-suspense novels are, simply put, the best series now on the market.”
“Stunningly complex and intricately plotted....Peter Robinson fools and entertains me with every twist.”
Lady Antonia Fraser in the London Sunday Times
“A happy discovery.”
“Robinson actually seems to grow in front of our eyes, delivering books of greater complexity each time.”
"Cunning…authentic and atmospheric."
Lady - Antonia Fraser
"A happy discovery."
Lady Antonia Fraser
“A happy discovery.”
Peter Robinson is:“A gifted creator of fully fleshed and vividly present characters.”
“Robinson shows he’s a master ... mixes a gritty plot with intense character studies....Consistently compelling.”
Raleigh News & Observer
“A fast-moving story [with] some knockout scenery and an assemblage of delicately drawn characters.”
“The best Banks book in years.”
“A damn fine crime novel...like a master class in crime fiction.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Exquisitely complex and atmospheric.”
Time Out London
“Taut, carefully thought out…with plots that are refreshingly cliché-free.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“The equal of legends in the genre such as P.D. James and Ruth Rendell.”
“If you haven’t read Robinson .... what on Earth is stopping you? .... A clever and entertaining thriller.”
Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Different and intriguing.”
“Absorbing…Robinson continues to stretch the boundaries of the standard procedural.”
“A skillful writer…”
The Independent (London)
“Cunning…authentic and atmospheric.”
“Robinson is on a winning streak.”
Sunday Times (London)
“Complex and intelligent.”
“Fascinating....Robinson, with his usual deft touch and unblinking eye, brings the story to an unexpectedly gut-wrenching conclusion.”
“Psychologically acute fiction.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Robinson has won just about every mystery award there is….His latest shows why.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
Globe & Mail (Toronto)
"Robinson has won just about every mystery award there is….His latest shows why."
Read an Excerpt
Was she being followed? It was hard to tell at that time of night on the motorway. There was plenty of traffic, lorries for the most part, and people driving home from the pub just a little too carefully, red BMWs coasting up the fast lane, doing a hundred or more, businessmen in a hurry to get home from late meetings. She was beyond Newport Pagnell now, and the muggy night air blurred the red tail lights of the cars ahead and the oncoming headlights across the road. She began to feel nervous as she checked her rear-view mirror and saw that the car was still behind her.
She pulled over to the outside lane and slowed down. The car, a dark Mondeo, overtook her. It was too dark to glimpse faces, but she thought there was just one person in the front and another in the back. It didn’t have a taxi light on top, so she guessed it was probably a private hire-car and stopped worrying. Some rich git being ferried to a nightclub in Leeds, most likely. She overtook the Mondeo a little further up the motorway and didn’t give it a second glance. The late-night radio was playing Old Blue Eyes singing “Summer Wind.” Her kind of music, no matter how old-fashioned people told her it was. Talent and good music never went out of style as far as she was concerned.
When she got to Watford Gap services, she realized she felt tired and hungry, and she still had a long way to go, so she decided to stop for a short break. She didn’t even notice the Mondeo pull in two cars behind her. A few seedy-looking people hung around the entrance; a couple of kids who didn’t look old enough to drive stood smoking and playing the machines, giving her the eye as she walked past, staring at her breasts.
She went first to the ladies’, then to the café, where she bought a ham and tomato sandwich and sat alone to eat, washing it down with a Diet Coke. At the table opposite, a man with a long face and dandruff on the collar of his dark suit jacket ogled her over the top of his glasses, pretending to read his newspaper and eat a sausage roll.
Was he just a common or garden-variety perv, or was there something more sinister in his interest? she wondered. In the end, she decided he was just a perv. Sometimes it seemed as if the world were full of them, that she could hardly walk down the street or go for a drink on her own without some sad pillock who thought he was God’s gift eyeing her up, like the kids hanging around the entrance, or coming over and laying a line of chat on her. Still, she told herself, what else could you expect at this time of night in a motorway service station? A couple of other men came in and went to the counter for coffee-to-go, but they didn’t give her a second glance.
She finished half the sandwich, dumped the rest and got her travel mug filled with coffee. When she walked back to her car she made sure that there were people around — a family with two young kids up way past their bedtime, noisy and hyperactive — and that no one was following her.
The tank was only a quarter full, so she filled it up at the petrol station, using her credit card right there, at the pump. The perv from the café pulled up at the pump opposite and stared at her as he put the nozzle in the tank. She ignored him. She could see the night manager in his office, watching through the window, and that made her feel more secure.
Tank full, she turned down the slip-road and eased in between two articulated lorries. It was hot in the car, so she opened both windows and enjoyed the play of breeze they created. It helped keep her awake, along with the hot black coffee. The clock on the dashboard read 12:35 a.m. Only about two or three hours to go, then she would be safe.
Penny Cartwright was singing Richard Thompson’s “Strange Affair” when Banks walked into the Dog and Gun, her low, husky voice milking the song’s stark melancholy for all it was worth. Banks stood by the door, transfixed. Penny Cartwright. He hadn’t seen her in over ten years, though he had thought of her often, even seen her name in Mojo and Uncut from time to time. The years had been kind. Her figure still looked good in blue jeans and a tight white T-shirt tucked in at the waist. The long, raven’s-wing hair he remembered looked just as glossy as ever in the stage lights, and the few threads of grey here and there made her look even more attractive. She seemed a little more gaunt than before, a little more sad around the eyes, perhaps, but it suited her, and Banks liked the contrast between her pale skin and dark hair.
When the song ended, Banks took advantage of the applause to walk over to the bar, order a pint and light a cigarette. He wasn’t happy with himself for having started smoking again after six months or more on the wagon, but there it was. He tried to avoid smoking in the flat, and he would stop again as soon as he’d got himself back together. For the moment, it was a crutch, an old friend come back to visit during a time of need.
There wasn’t a seat left in the entire lounge. Banks could feel the sweat prickling on his temples and at the back of his neck. He leaned against the bar and let Penny’s voice transport him as she launched into “Blackwater Side.” She had two accompanists, one on guitar and the other on stand-up bass, and they wove a dense tapestry of sound against which her lyric lines soared.
The next round of applause marked the end of the set, and Penny walked through the crowd, which parted like the Red Sea for her, smiling and nodding hello as she went, and stood next to Banks at the bar. She lit a cigarette, inhaled, made a circle of her mouth and blew out a smoke ring towards the optics.