In Careless Love, DCI Banks has plenty of opportunity to ponder his love of music and the lonely state of his family relationships with that of his colleagues, DI Annie Cabott, DS Winsome Jackman and DS Gerry Masterson, but not before he and Jackman are called to remote Belderfell Pass. A young woman lies dead behind the wheel of a damaged Ford Focus. As far as Banks can tell, there is no physical evidence of any mistreatment on the body, no bruises or cuts or traces of blood. Nothing offers any clues as to the girl's identity.
Annie and Gerry Masterson are called to the edge of the moors, where a broken man's body has been discovered. Where did he wander from? How did he get here? Where's his car? The only source of his identity is a fob of keys Annie finds in his jacket pocket. The footwork of the case involves many tedious interviews with several suspects as well as friends of the dead girl, whom Gerry identifies as Adrianne Monroe, a student at Eastvale College. There's a lot of checking phone records, tracing Adrianne's last moments and her ties to two wealthy local men, Anthony Randall and Lawrence Hatfield--one a doctor, the other an investor. Anthony and Lawrence are friends who have a connection to Sarah Chen, another dead girl. The team interview Adrianne's boyfriend, Colin Fairfax, who says that he bought Adrianne a charm for her bracelet, a bracelet that later links the dead girls to another mysterious girl called "Mia."
Robinson inserts a sub-plot involving Annie's father, Ray, his new girlfriend, Zelda, an intelligence gatherer, and the machinations of old nemesis Phil Keane, whom Zelda has linked to sex trafficking. Over dinner, Banks tells Ray and Zelda that they've got two suspicious deaths. Gerry keeps working the "mystery man" while Winsome and Alan carry on investigating what actually happened to Adrianne. Banks is haunted by images of dead Adrianne, who now lies on the postmortem suite slab. Nobody involved in the accident on Belderfell Pass or the discovery of the body had placed Adrianne behind the wheel of the abandoned Ford Focus. Within this murky web lies the true motive for the killings. From the beginning, Banks is blinded by his own assumptions, punting on the perceptive Winsome and later Ken Blackstone, who tells the team about Sarah Chen and helps by showing a likeness of Mia around Eastvale's student haunts.
Robinson wraps up the motive for the killings in a case that involves darkness, prostitution and blackmail, but at the end of the day, Careless Love is all about Banks's personal relationships, shaped around his love of music. A few unexpected twists up the stakes to a fairly low-key finale. Still, Robinson's lean prose and fast pace always keep the pages turning. Even if you haven't read the other titles in the series, it's quite easy to become fully invested in Banks and his team without feeling like you're missing something, and the Yorkshire Dales are beautifully conveyed. While this is not the tensest of the series, police procedural fans will continue to love Banks as he attempts to get to the heart of a young woman trying desperately to crawl out of the darkness and into the light.
Rarely indulging in cheap plot tricks and serendipitous gimmicks to move his plot along, Robinson is mostly adept in unfolding the story at a slow leisurely pace. He's a master at delivering what is perhaps a crime of passion rather than cold-blooded revenge.