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by Peter Robinson
William Morrow, August 2017
336 pages
ISBN: 0062395076

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

SLEEPING IN THE GROUND marks Inspector, now Detective Superintendent, Banks' 24th appearance. Although some things have changed with his elevated rank, much remains the same. It is true that Banks' new status precludes an intimate involvement in the grunt work of police investigation, but when the crime is a serious, and as horrific, as the one that opens the book, Banks finds plenty to require his talents and experience.

He is on his way home from attending the funeral of a woman who was his first serious attachment when he was in college. It is an event that has awakened in him both fond memories and a melancholy reminder of what might have been. Then his mobile phone explodes with urgent messages - the wedding of a minor celebrity has been interrupted in a quiet Yorkshire country churchyard by sniper fire that leaves the bride, her maid of honour and her father dead on the spot, followed by the groom and another bridesmaid later in hospital. Others are wounded, including DS Winsome Jackman, who happened to be a guest at the wedding.

Initially, this appears to be a relatively simple, if hard to explain, case. Gun violence, especially with something resembling an AK-47, is very rare in Britain and guns are closely controlled. Banks' team is led quickly to a suitable candidate as perpetrator, a retired dentist and gun club member who may not have had a discernable motive but who certainly had the arms. He has, moreover, apparently committed suicide once his dreadful deed was done. But as the team looks more closely at the case, trying to discover what might have driven the dentist to such lengths, it begins to unravel and the search is on for the genuine killer.

The brunt of the investigation falls to Annie Cabbot and to the newest member of Banks' team, Gerry Masterson. The latter is painfully self-conscious, constantly mentally comparing herself with any other woman she meets in the course of her work. Annie remains Annie. But the two of them and others on the team pursue a dogged investigation that ultimately yields results, if in an extremely tense conclusion that has Banks shaking his head both in amazement and dismay.

Banks has still not quite come to terms with his new status as Detective Superintendent, but he must also find the space to reconcile himself with own past so that he may go forward. The woman whose funeral he'd been attending was his first real love and she'd left him abruptly and without explanation. Now he is in touch with someone who can explain what happened and when she does, the revelation floors Banks.

Peter Robinson provides his usual playlist to Banks' life, this time featuring Ziggy Stardust and Maria Muldaur. But a recent addition appears as well - Banks has taken up reading poetry under the tutelage of his friend Linda Palmer, and though she doesn't appear in this installment, Thomas Hardy does. Hardy's crabbed misanthropy seems not quite to suit the mood of SLEEPING IN THE GROUND, which, while full of melancholy and regret, still manages to look hopefully forward. Certainly the introduction of another women from Banks' past, Jenny Fuller, the forensic profiler newly returned from Australia and happily single, suggests a new and promising turn in Banks' private life.

SLEEPING IN THE GROUND marks thirty years since GALLOWS VIEW, the first in the Inspector Banks series, appeared. Over the years, readers have seen him grow and mature (and some of us have aged along with him). In addition to a puzzling case solved in the end by well-developed characters going about their job in a convincing way, the book provides an affecting sense of the sorrows and joys of later middle age that should appeal to grownup readers of any age at all.

Yvonne Klein is a writer, translator, and retired college English professor who lives in Montreal. She's been editing RTE since 2008.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, August 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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