The Washington Post
Strange Affair (Inspector Alan Banks Series #15)by Peter Robinson, Emma Galvin
"On a warm summer night, an attractive woman hurtles north in a blue Peugeot with a hastily scrawled address in her pocket, while, back in London, a desperate man leaves an urgent late-night phone message on his brother's answering machine. By sunrise the next morning, the woman is found inside her car along an otherwise peaceful country lane, shot, execution-style,… See more details below
"On a warm summer night, an attractive woman hurtles north in a blue Peugeot with a hastily scrawled address in her pocket, while, back in London, a desperate man leaves an urgent late-night phone message on his brother's answering machine. By sunrise the next morning, the woman is found inside her car along an otherwise peaceful country lane, shot, execution-style, through the head." "Welcome to the idyllic Yorkshire Dales, where Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot arrives on the scene and discovers, to her surprise, a slip of paper in the dead woman's pocket that bears the name of her colleague and erstwhile lover, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. Banks, meanwhile - already haunted and withdrawn after nearly dying in the fire that destroyed his home - has gone missing just when he's needed most, and has left plenty of questions behind." As Annie struggles to determine whether or not Banks is safe - and what role he may have played in the woman's murder - Banks himself investigates the mysterious disappearance of his estranged brother, Roy, whose late-night call for help brings Banks back to London. Working from Roy's swank apartment, Banks makes the rounds to Roy's old haunts and slowly inhabits the life of his younger brother - the black sheep of the family, who always seemed to sail a little too close to the wind. As the trail of clues about Roy's life and associations draws Banks into a dark circle of conspiracy and corruption, mobsters and murder, Banks suddenly realizes he's running out of time to save Roy, and by digging too deep, he may be exposing himself and his family to the same - possibly deadly - danger.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
–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
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.
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