- - Saturday, January 18, 2020

Peter Robinson’s fictional character Detective Superintendent Alan Banks has been the protagonist of a long series of popular crime novels, beginning with 1987’s “Gallows View.” Originally a detective working in London, Banks grew disillusioned with the big city and transferred to a fictional English town near Yorkshire called Eastvale.

Mr. Robinson’s detective character and stories were adapted for a British TV series called “DCI Banks,” which aired on British TV from 2010 to 2016.

Banks has moved up the ranks to become a detective superintendent, and in “Many Rivers To Cross” he and his squad must investigate the murder of a teenage boy left in a trash can, what the British call a “rubbish bin.”  

“Banks put on his thin latex gloves, slowly opened the bin and recoiled from what he saw there: a boy’s body with his knees tucked under his chin, curled up, almost like a fire victim,” Mr. Robinson writes. “But it wasn’t a pugilistic position, and there had been no fire; the boy had been deliberately crammed into the bin.”

The rubbish bin belonged to an elderly retired nurse who told Banks that she didn’t know the boy and didn’t how he ended up in the bin outside of her house.

Banks’ investigating team consisted of Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot and Detective Constable Gerry Masterson. They discovered a bit of cocaine in the boy’s pocket, and after a medical examination they learned the boy had been stabbed to death. He was identified as a Syrian immigrant who had managed to travel to England all on his own,

The police later investigated another victim not far from the boy in the bin. Howard Stokes, a down-and-out diabetic and heroin addict in a wheelchair was found dead by two young boys who were playing in an abandoned house in a housing area being cleared for redevelopment.

Banks interviews a wealthy property developer named Connor Clive Blaydon, whom the coppers call “dodgy.” Although he had no criminal record, his partners in redevelopment deals are well-known to Banks. His partners are Timmy and Tommy Kerrigan, a pair of brothers who are local “villains,” as the British call criminals.

“Timmy and Tommy Kerrigan were, on paper at least, owners of the old Bar None nightclub, now renamed The Vaults, just across the market square from where Banks and Joanna were sitting, along an amusement arcade, also on the square. They were crooks and thugs, suspected of involvement in drug dealing and prostitution, but Banks and his team had never been able to find enough evidence to charge them with anything,” Mr. Robinson writes. “Timmy was suspected of an unhealthy interest in teenage girls, whereas Tommy was gay and preferred young boys. Tommy also had a sadistic streak and a nasty temper, ready to explode at a moment’s notice.

“Their temperamental similarity to the Kray twins had been remarked on more than once, to the extent that in some quarters they were referred to as Reggie and Ronnie, though never to their faces.”

Blaydon also associates with a brutal Albanian mobster named Leka Gashi. When Banks later met with his team, Gerry Masterson explained that the Albanian mafia had forged an alliance with the Colombian cartels and they were taking over the drug trade in cocaine and heroin.

Banks noted that Blaydon was a playboy and an adventurer type.

“A gambler by nature. Maybe thinks he’s above the law? Perhaps a psychopathic personality? I must say, I thought I could pick up on a few of those traits when Annie and I talked to him,” Banks said. “It was a perfect performance. He didn’t miss a beat.”

Gerry Masterson agreed and noted that Blaydon was a “high roller” gambler, but he was on a losing streak. She also explained that Blaydon craved attention. He liked to be photographed with celebrities, and he threw parties for visiting pop stars and dignitaries.  

In a parallel investigation, Nelia Melnic, known as Zelda, was hunting on her own with Phil Keene, a former nemesis of Banks. Keene had burned down the detective’s house in a previous novel.

Zelda, a police consultant and “super recognizer” who never forgot a face she has encountered, is a former sex slave and forced prostitute from the age of 17. She is the girlfriend of the artist father of Annie Cabott and a good friend of Banks.

Zelda hopes that Keene will lead her to the two men who initially made her a sex slave.  

Many “Rivers To Cross” is a well-written and suspenseful crime novel that will be welcomed and read by Peter Robinson’s many fans, as well as newcomers to the crime series. 

• Paul Davis covers crime, espionage and terrorism. 

• • •


By Peter Robinson

Morrow/HarperCollins, $23.19, 384 pages

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