The Wilder Aisles 

Janice Wilder has been a legend of Sydney bookselling for over 40 years.

Peter Robinson is the author of twenty novels...

 - Thursday, October 03, 2013
Peter Robinson is the author of 20 novels featuring DCI Alan Banks. I think I have read them all. He has written other books not featuring Banks, which I have also read. I really like his writing & the stories he tells. The crime novels, are I think, particularly the later ones, a novel in which a crime occurs, rather than a  straight out crime novel, although the author would probably dispute this. I don't know quite why I like these books so much, perhaps because I feel that he is the kind of author who seems to inhabit his books in a strange way. I can't really explain it, but somehow I feel that I know Peter Robinson as well as DCI Banks. The latest, Children of the Revolution, is the story of a disgraced college lecturer, Gavin Miller, found dead on a disused railway line with a lot of money in his pocket. He is known to be down on his luck, having lost his job he was in desperate financial circumstances, living a secluded hand-to-mouth existence. At first, it looks as if he threw himself off the railway bridge, but it soon turns out this is not the case. Robbery is ruled out because of the money left behind. The also appears to be a drugs connection, Banks thinks that maybe this is where the money came from. As the investigation proceeds a lot of other people become involved, including lecturers and students at the college. When tracing Miller's past, the years he spent at Essex University come to light and become of great interest to Banks. It was the early seventies, a time of miner's strikes and flying pickets, with idealistic young people living in communes and sharing their lot with the striking miners. One of these young people, whose name turns up during Banks' investigation, is Ronnie, now Lady Veronica Chalmers. She is now married to an ambitious, influential, wealthy theatre director, and has relatives who have high political ambitions. Ronnie is very reluctant to answer questions and complains to Bank's superiors. He is told to stay away from her, but he becomes convinced of her involvement in the whole affair and risks invoking the wrath of his boss to bring the case to a close. This is vintage Robinson, equal to his best. Highly enjoyable.

Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo, is a very different book to Children of the Revolution. The latest in a series set among the Amish in Painters Mill, Ohio, which began with Sworn to Silence. Kate Burkholder has left the Amish and her home to town to join the police force. She is sent to Painters Mill as police chief and finds herself back with the people she thought she left forever. In the latest in the series, Kate is shocked by the killing of an Amish father and his two children, a third child surviving what looks at first like an accident. A car going to around a corner too fast slams into the buggy with all its occupants thrown out onto the road. There are a lot of things about the crash that don't hold up under scrutiny, and Kate begins to think 'the accident' was intentional. During the investigation, Kate is forced to make contact with the Amish, and especially with her old childhood best friend, Mattie. Mattie is devastated by the death of her husband and children, refusing to leave the hospital bedside of her one surviving son, David. The Amish are suspicious and unhelpful as Kate pursues the case, which Kate blames on the fact that she has left the faith. As the investigation continues, Kate comes to question everything she thought she knew about human nature and the Amish culture into which she was born. While I had a few problems with this book—there was a little too many improbable situations—I still enjoyed it, and I really like the character of Kate Burkholder.

I continue my green Penguin crime reading this month with The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett and Dead in the  Morning by Margaret York. The Thin Man probably needs no introduction. It is a great read, once you get over all the drinking and smoking (or once you get into it). I don't think a page goes by without a cocktail being poured and a cigarette being lit. Nick Charles has more or less retired from his private detective days, but when one Julia Woolf, a former acquaintance is found dead, Nick and his glamorous wife Nora, can't help making a few enquiries. Once he finds out that Julia's boss and lover have also gone missing, murder and mayhem swiftly follow. And of course I must mention the wonderful Thin Man film(s) starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. The first in this series of classic Hollywood screwballs is one of my favourites. Next in my green Penguin reading was Dead in the Morning by Margaret York. First published in 1970, it is about old Mrs Ludlow, rich, mean and iron-fisted when it comes to controlling the family finances. Various of her children have money worries, all living on the slender hope of a handout. When the housekeeper is poisoned everyone assumes it was meant for Mrs Ludlow, but Doctor Grant, an amateur detective thinks they are wrong. This is a slight, but quite clever book. The ending is surprising, and I would like to read the other mystery stories that York wrote. Another fun read in this great series from Penguin.