FRIEND OF THE DEVIL by Peter Robinson (McClelland & Stewart), 365 pages, $34.99 cloth. Rating: NNNN
A fan for years of Canadian crime writer Peter Robinson's sturdy Yorkshire-based mysteries, I couldn't wait for the new Inspector Banks novel to hit the shelves. And 17 books into the series, Friend Of The Devil is as fresh and compelling as the first.
This time Robinson's done something a bit different structure-wise. At the same time as DCI Alan Banks searches for the killer of a young woman found in a back-alley area of Eastvale known as the Maze, his second-in-command and ex-lover, DI Annie Cabbot, on loan to another division, investigates the discovery of a paraplegic woman left on a clifftop with her throat slashed.
The book cuts back and forth between the two seemingly unconnected cases every few pages, giving equal weight to both investigations. It's a smart choice. One minute we're with the intuitive and complex Banks, the next caught up in Cabbot's case. At each switch, we're reluctant to let go, but before we know it, we're lost in the next section, dying to know what's coming.
There's a lot more of the enigmatic Cabbot, whose equilibrium is threatened by a one-night stand gone wrong and her unresolved feelings for Banks.
What I like best about Robinson apart from his convincing characters, meaty plots and elegant writing is his deft use of up-to-the-minute props. Here it's the music-loving Banks's ubiquitous iPod shuffle, a perfect means for the detective to muse on the randomness of life and death, and for the author to set the emotional scene.
Friend Of The Devil is an excellent read. Like a Laphroaig single malt, Robinson only improves with age.