I’ve got yummy chai tea and a delicious Date Bar on the coffee table in front of me as I think about last week’s reading and listening experiences. Neither one of them was amazing, and here’s why…
I’m nearly finished reading Peter Robinson’s latest book, When the Music’s Over, which I think is the 22nd book in the “Alan Banks” series. There are two plot lines in this novel. One case, Banks’ first as newly promoted Detective Superintendent, involves the investigation into the historical sexual abuse of minors by entertainment superstar Danny Caxton. Caxton, now 85 years old, has been accused by numerous women of rape from 1967 to the 1980s, and Banks must try to build a solid case against him. Banks’ main victim is semi-famous poet Linda Palmer, now in her early 60s, who was raped by Caxton and another man in a hotel room in Blackpool after being lured into a waiting car with promises of introductions into the show biz world - she was just 14 years old. Banks must work hard to find evidence of this 50-year-old crime, as well as other incidents involving other victims, in order to convict Caxton, a man who has been well-loved by British audiences for decades. The other case is led by DI Annie Cabbott and involves the death of a young woman found in a ditch along an isolated stretch of highway in the remote countryside. Evidence suggests that she was severely beaten, drugged, possibly raped, thrown from a moving vehicle, then kicked to death after wandering along the road in search of help. Who is this young woman, and who committed such a gruesome murder? When it is discovered that the girl did not live in Eastvale, Annie and her team involve surrounding communities, and are challenged by hostile law enforcement personnel at every turn. I’ve got about 40 pages left to read, but feel confident that I can comment on this novel at this point. I’ve been a Peter Robinson fan for many, many years, and will admit that some of his books in this series are better than others. This is not one of his best. In my opinion, it lacks flare, or zing, or “pizzazz” - it seems a bit lackluster, uninspired, “blah”. The writing is solid, as expected from Robinson, but it just seems a bit flat. I think it’s missing character development and depth of story - it’s too “all-over-the-place” and tries to include too much. It has also been fairly predictable so far, with no real surprise elements or plot developments. It’s all too coincidental that Annie and Banks are investigating two cases simultaneously that are so very similar, despite the decades that separate their occurrences. I hate to say it, but I think he needs to move on and either begin a new series, or write a few standalones (standalone novel Before the Poison was awesome!) If you have never read Robinson, I would not recommend starting with this one, as it is just OK - unless it somehow manages to wow me in the final chapters, I would rate it a 7 out of 10.
And I finished listening to the audio version of Charles Finch’s novel The September Society, featuring gentleman and amateur detective Charles Lenox. It was also just OK, a cozy mystery involving first the disappearance, then the murder, of an Oxford student. Charles is contacted by an old acquaintance to find her son, George Payson, who went missing from his Oxford residence the day before. Lady Annabelle is sure that George would not have run off voluntarily when he knew she was waiting to meet him at the tearoom. Then there is the issue of the dead cat found in George’s room. Lenox calls in help from his friend Dr. Connolly and newly acquired apprentice Lord John Darlington to find the connection between this death and a mysterious society that may have been involved in a murder that took place in India decades earlier. Also significant to the story is the development of the relationship between Lenox and childhood friend and current neighbour Lady Jane. This cozy mystery was exactly what I expected, a gentle mystery set in Victorian England, much like the book I listened to a few months ago, A Death in the Small Hours. I don’t love Finch’s novels, but they are OK in a pinch, when I need something to listen to and don’t have a better choice at hand. I thought this was the first in the series, but I have discovered that A Beautiful Blue Death is first - I have that downloaded on my MP3 player already, and may listen to it after I finish my current audiobook. I also just discovered that the author, Charles Finch, is American, but he writes convincingly in the voice of a British gentleman in Victorian England. I would give this book 7 out of 10, as there was no real surprise ending - like Robinson’s book, this too was fairly predictable.
That’s all for today. Stay dry and have a wonderful Sunday!
Bye for now…