Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on In the Dark Places.
Thereís a reason police procedurals are an enduring source of entertainment, especially Peter Robinsonís Detective Chief Inspector Banks series.
The author pays particular attention to character development as well as thorough investigation of criminal activities. Minute fragments of information are connected in service of linking seemingly coincidental events into an emerging pattern and arrest, in this case a mystery constructed from the randomness of a stolen tractor, a pool of human blood discovered in a deserted World War II hangar, and eventually forensic examination of rural abattoirs (a particularly heinous addition).
Familiar characters return to tackle another set of circumstances, Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, Detective Inspector Winsome Jackson, Detective Constable Dougal Wilson, etc., following up on the particulars of their assignments to build a cohesive case.
The complicated threads of disparate facts weave together in a puzzle only the discerning eye of DCI Banks and his crew can solve--with a little outside assistance.
From the rundown council estates in Eastvale to a remote Yorkshire farm where a tractor disappeared, from police headquarters to the wild North Yorkshire moors, the author inhabits places as precisely as characters, the local attitudes, class distinctions and dysfunctional families that contribute to the final solution, the drama accompanied by the subtle strains of mood-setting music, memorable tunes of days gone by. The vague, painstakingly obscured connections of criminal enterprises, meaningless on their own, are linked tedious detail by tedious detail, detectives adapting their bossís long view in solving crimes.
Consistency and attention to detail facilitate a satisfying experience for armchair voyeurs (whether devoted fans of the Banks series or first-time readers), questions inevitably answered by detectives trained to let no detail go unexamined, no motive discounted. Certainly there is menace and mayhem, even murder--a bloody accident spreading animal carnage all over a country road, the overwhelming odor of an abattoir,
and the savage death of a small-time crook, to name a few--all organically woven into a mystery rife with distractions and odd bedfellows.
Moody, sophisticated and addictive, In the Dark Places is deceptively mellow--until it isnít. The deadly vehicle crash during a freak hailstorm ratchets up the tension, Banks drawn into the complex web of a crime with tentacles that reach beyond the expected parameters, the danger to investigators increasing exponentially. The seasoned writer--winner of the Edgar and CWA Dagger awards--illuminates not only the evolution of a crime but the society that breeds men compelled to pursue life outside the law and prey on those less fortunate.
As poverty and the spreading decay of economic inequity further separate the haves and have-nots, opportunities for reasonable solutions diminish, rage and violence far more accessible, a fertile landscape for Banks and his team. Thereís plenty to savor here, from visual descriptions of abattoirs to a terrified detectiveís foray into an underground cave to escape the killer in pursuit, Yorkshire steeped not only in its historical past but the changing face of crime in a modern world, where borders are more porous and profit international. Itís DCI Banksí job to contain the mayhem before it escapes the borders of his turf. And that he does.