Monday, October 17, 2016

Introducing Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks

First published in 1987, this is the novel that introduced Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. Banks is a former London policeman who relocated to Yorkshire, assuming that the pace of life and the crime rate would both be slower. That may be the case, but he quickly discovers that there's more than enough crime to keep him busy, even out here in the hinterlands. This is a good thing, of course; otherwise there would be no point in writing or reading about his adventures. The series has now reached twenty-three books, with the latest published this year. A lot has changed over that period for Banks, but he's never wanted for mysteries to unravel and criminals to pursue. 

When we first meet him, Banks is apparently somewhere in his early to mid-thirties. He's happily married and has two children who are nearing their teens. He's a solid, dedicated husband, father and policeman. He's certainly not as flashy as Lucas Davenport or as complex as John Rebus, but if you were in need of a detective, he's probably just the sort of guy you'd want on the job.

In this instance, Banks faces three complex criminal cases and some personal issues as well. In the first case, an elderly woman is killed, apparently by someone she admitted to her home. It may have been a burglary gone wrong, although little seems to be missing. Unfortunately, there are few clues; there's no one with an obvious motive, and there are apparently no witnesses.

Additionally, a Peeping Tom is spying on local women. He seems to prefer shapely blondes and apparently wants them to know that he has been watching them. Several outraged and frightened women have reported the guy, but no one's gotten a good look at him and he's gotten away cleanly every time, at least thus far.

Finally, someone, or maybe two someones, are burglarizing houses. They apparently know when people are going to be away from home and what sort of valuables they might have. It's all very frustrating, both for the victims and for the police, but at least initially, the burglars have been careful and clever enough to leave no clues pointing in their direction.

Banks must juggle all these cases and pressure is building for solutions in each. In an effort to catch the Peeping Tom, the police bring in a psychologist to consult with Banks and develop a profile of the peeper. The psychologist turns out the be a young, intelligent and very sexy woman. Although happily married, Banks is strongly attracted to her and his feelings are obviously reciprocated, which may wind up causing problems on the home front.

This novel moves at its own, relatively quiet pace. There's not a great deal of violence and it's not one of those thrillers that grabs you by the throat and won't let go. Still, it has attractions of its own. Banks is an interesting protagonist and as a detective he's probably perfectly suited for the job he's taken. It's fun to watch him at work and, twenty-three books down the road, fans of the series still look forward to the new installments. By now, it's like settling in with a familiar cast of characters that you look forward to meeting again once every year or so.

Over twenty-three books Banks's personal life has steadily evolved, and this is one of those series where a reader would probably be well advised to start at the beginning rather than picking up the latest installment and learning a lot of things that you might well not want to know. But for people who enjoy more realistic British mystery series, this is among the best.

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