Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines's take on In the Dark Places.
Interesting that Robinson’s novels offer a departure from the current ITV
series DCI Banks, on which many of the books are based. In the second
season of the hit television show, Annie is pregnant, and new detective DCI Morton is introduced as a willing foil for Alan Banks. I find it unfortunate that Morton is missing from the novelizations as she is easily the most intriguing character to come out of Eastvale Organized Crime Unit. Still, Banks is a character that readily draws us into both mediums: he’s a passionate and committed police officer, full of professional strengths and romantic weaknesses. In the TV series, actor Stephen Tompkinson is always excellent in the role. Whether a grizzled police veteran, a cunning private eye, or a new breed of truth seeker, you can always count on DCI Banks to peel away the layers of a twisty investigation to arrive at a stunning revelation.
This latest novel is no exception, opening with two innocuous events: a stolen tractor and a mysterious bloodstain found by military veteran Terry Gilchrist in a deserted aircraft hangar near a local railway line. Even as DI Annie Cabot bemoans the lack of a good meaty case to sink her teeth into, DS Winsome Jackman and DC Gerry Masterson are on the way to investigate the bloodstain, a blemish that at first glance seems to be dotted with chips of bone and chunks of gray matter. After the CSIs determine that the stain is indeed human blood, the team are placed on high alert. Suddenly all the evidence
points towards a suspicious death.
Just back from his vacation, Banks assumes control, working with the team to link the stolen tractor to two young men: Michael Lane and his best mate, Morgan Spencer. Although Michael is not officially missing, neither the police nor his current girlfriend, Alex Preston, know of his whereabouts. Alex is indeed worried; it’s not like Michael to disappear without him calling her. And Morgan is also missing. Alex tells Annie that Michael hasn’t been seen since he left home on Sunday morning. Just as Michael was leaving, someone--probably Spencer--texted Michael to meet him.
For Banks, there are far too many coincidences. He’s certain there’s some kind of connection with the blood found in the hangar and the missing men. Annie and DC Doug Wilson, meanwhile, visit John and Pat Beddoes’ farm. Just back from Mexico, the couple notice right away that their garage was broken into. From here Robinson picks up the pace, unfolding his serpentine and grisly crime drama in which the team must find out who was actually murdered and who stole the Beddoes’ tractor. Was it Michael Lane or Morgan Spencer, or some other perpetrator of some older, less obvious blood feud?
Alan is at first skeptical about Lane and Spencer being responsible, but Annie’s instincts are on high alert, especially after she listens to Alex’s plight to finally live a straight life with Michael by her side. Alex is cautious for her young son and worries that Michael has been indulging in some kind of criminal behavior. Even Michael’s mother, Denise Lane--who deserted the family years before--is positive that if there’s any dirty work afoot, Morgan Spencer is behind it.
What starts out as a rural investigation soon becomes something much more sinister and multi-layered as dark clouds lumber across the sky, unleashing shower upon shower of rain. When a lorry accidentally crashes to the bottom of Belderfell Pass, a snowy, dangerous, and isolated section of road just outside of Eastvale,
the bloodshed that follows is too horrific to contemplate. Yet the accident gives the team a lucky break, causing the investigation to ricochet in a totally new direction. Banks inadvertently finds himself investigating a shady London venture property development company and a series of local abattoirs where Annie is unable to cope with the cruelty and blood.
Although there aren’t that many surprises, the novel is always well-plotted and compelling. A fairly typical archetype, Banks has just the right mix of integrity and volatility--you never know quite which way he's going to go--while pragmatic, by-the-book Annie is much more cynical and world-weary. The focus, at least in this outing, is undoubtedly on DS Winsome Jackman, who forms a romantic attachment to Terry Gilchrist even though she’s hesitant and unsure. It is the savvy, gritty, workaholic Winsome who eventually figures it all out, inadvertently falling into the arms of a manic killer.