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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books in the Inspector Banks series
Peter Robinson keeps getting better. This book, the latest in the perennial Inspector Banks series, is certainly one of the best. Combined with the usual police procedural are Banks' problems and tribulations, making him one of the most human mystery characters around.
The story itself is about fire (hence the title), and Robinson keeps you guessing throughout the...
Published on 28 Dec. 2004 by Kirk McElhearn

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Running out of gas?
I didn't find this as satisfying as earlier Banks titles. Too didactic. At times it read like a manual on the forensics of fire, or police procedure and since most of this was done via the medium of reported conversation it felt rather unrealistic. People kept telling each other things they would already have known. And the plot, the characterisation and the procedure...
Published 13 months ago by Niblick


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books in the Inspector Banks series, 28 Dec. 2004
By 
Kirk McElhearn (Near Stratford-upon-Avon) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Playing with Fire (Paperback)
Peter Robinson keeps getting better. This book, the latest in the perennial Inspector Banks series, is certainly one of the best. Combined with the usual police procedural are Banks' problems and tribulations, making him one of the most human mystery characters around.
The story itself is about fire (hence the title), and Robinson keeps you guessing throughout the book. The denouement is not without shock and a life-changing event for Banks, and it makes you look forward to the next installment with great expectation.
If you haven't read any Inspector Banks novels, this could be a good place to start, but you'll probably want to begin at the beginning - this is one series that will quickly get you hooked.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing With Fire, Peter Robinson, 19 Oct. 2004
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Playing with Fire (Paperback)
Playing with Fire is that rare beast; a Peter Robinson novel that hasn't had its titled bashed about for North American markets, which is rather refreshing. And, of course, considering that title, it is full of fire, destruction, conflagration (physical and emotional) as well a new burning power in the writing itself too, which makes the book possibly Robinson's strongest, most cunning plotted mystery yet, if perhaps not the most "meaningful" or innovative.
It begins, of course, with flame. In the wee hours of a cold January morning (the chill of the climate and atmosphere is a brilliantly effective contrast to the searing fires of the plot) two narrow-boats are found burning on a lonely stretch of a Yorkshire canal. When the fire-fighters have done their work, the investigators move in, and two dead bodies are found in the remains, blackened and burnt. And, of course, in the best traditions of the murder-mystery, traces of accelerant are found.
However, which was the intended victim? Tina, the drugged out young girl living with her boyfriend on one boat, or Tom, the lonely, seemingly reclusive artist who lived on the other? As Robinson's well-seasoned protagonist Chief Inspector Banks sets the investigations in motion, the threads tangle and the case proves to be every bit as complex as it promised at the start. And this particular twisted firestarter is not done yet...
Peter Robinson is remarkable; with every single book for about 6 years, he has been continuing to expand his series, smashing down boundaries, reaching new heights with every single book. While once his reflective Inspector Banks novels were simply nice little procedurals to while away an evening, lately they have become something far more remarkable, and he has moved into the front rank of male crime writers, alongside Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly in writing moving, artful crime novels that shed light on all aspects of human experience. There are so many things to recommend him, not least his evocation of landscape and ability to probe the very human depths of every single characters instinctive motivations. He plots as if he were born to the genre, and his protagonist Banks is a true marvel. Less of a tough-as-nails guy than Bosch or Rebus, Banks is thoughtful, moral, reflective and, dare I say it, not startlingly interesting on the surface (but, of course, therein lies his shining humanity) and in Playing with Fire there are enough personal trials for him to deal with to satisfy any connoisseur of fascinating protagonists. The other human aspects of this book are incredibly well-done; moving and expansive, Robinson reaches out to all his characters, taking them gently by the hand and leading them to the reader, in sometimes shocking ways.
The cracking, multi-faced plot is in itself engaging and clever, with surprises and shifts in tone and pitch that elevate it far above the average, the only thing that lets this novel down is it's slightly annoying solution - though this may well just be down to personal taste. Otherwise, this is a 14th excellent Banks novel from Peter Robinson.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robinson on top form, 18 May 2004
By 
M. V. Clarke (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This, the 14th novel in Robinson's Inspector Banks series, is a super read. The prose is typically well constructed and flows easily, with clear, evocative descriptions of people and places. The story is set, as usual, near Eastvale in Yorkshire, with DCI Banks, DI Cabbott and team investigating a series of arson attacks. We learn lots about the different characters and suspects - variously feeling sorry for, irritated by and concerned about them. Issues of family relationships, drug abuse, social class and deceit are all explored. As ever, the reader feels closely connected to Banks - though his personal life is rather more thoughtful than active here - perhaps a sign of him getting older and reflecting more on what's happened throughout the years.
A great read and a typical Peter Robinson page-turner.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hot Addition to the Series, 27 Feb. 2004
By 
Untouchable (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
In this 14th book of the consistently high quality Inspector Banks series, a case of arson drags Banks and his team out in the middle of the night. It’s soon apparent that among the burning wreckage lie two bodies, so they launch their inquiry as a possible double murder. Then, the pace accelerates when a second arson attack takes place less than 10 miles from the first.
Once again, the very engaging Banks is backed up by his second in command D.I. Annie Cabbot creating a delightful partnership. The characters keep growing and getting more interesting, giving an extra dimension to each successive book. As far as police procedurals go this was another strong addition to an already excellent series. I’ve found reading the Inspector Banks series always captivating and this one was no less so. I found myself sitting up far into the night to finish it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is the CD version of the story, 13 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Playing with Fire (Audio CD)
This is my first experience of Peter Robinson's apparently long-as-your-arm body of works about Inspector Banks but instead of reading the book I decided to try a flavour of this genre in this 4 disc CD version. This and several others in the series are read by acclaimed TV actor Neil Pearson. Pearson juggles the demands of multiple characters with remarkable ability and clear diction despite numerous changes of 'northern' accents, to the extent of giving even the female characters distinctly different 'voices'.
The central character Inspector Banks seems quite an amiable soul, and not at all as maverick as many out there. Dogged determination and good police work solve the mystery of two bodies each found on burnt out canal barges in Yorkshire. Were the two murders linked? Why had the boyfriend of a teenage girl disappeared? Who was the middle-aged artist who bought books from an antiquarian shop? What is the Doctor's wife concealing after her daughter runs away from home?
This is as cosy as Midsomer Murders or Dorothy Simpson or the Wycliffe series, and has a satisfactory beginning, middle and end so I might try out a couple more. Slightly grating however, is Robinson's constant references to Banks' eclectic choices of music (classical and jazz) and drink (why always Laphroaig?) whenever he is in the car or home relaxing, mulling over the case.
Elena Forbes's Inspector Mark Tartaglia and team are in a similar vein and also in CD format but Tartaglia I feel has a little more edge as a character.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent mystery and addition to series, 4 Jan. 2004
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Playing with Fire is that rare beast; a Peter Robinson novel that hasn’t had its titled bashed about for North American markets which is rather refreshing. And, of course, considering that title, it is full of fire, destruction, conflagration (physical and emotional) as well a new burning power in the writing itself too, which makes the book possibly Robinson’s strongest, most cunning plotted mystery yet, if perhaps not the most “meaningful” or innovative.
It begins, of course, with flame. In the wee hours of a cold January morning (the chill of the climate and atmosphere is a brilliantly effective contrast to the searing fires of the plot) two narrow-boats are found burning on a lonely stretch of a Yorkshire canal. When the fire-fighters have done their work, the investigators move in, and two dead bodies are found in the remains, blackened and burnt. And, of course, in the best traditions of the murder-mystery, traces of accelerant are found.
However, which was the intended victim? Tina, the drugged out young girl living with her boyfriend on one boat, or Tom, the lonely, seemingly reclusive artist who lived on the other? As Robinson’s well-seasoned protagonist Chief Inspector Banks sets the investigations in motion, the threads tangle and the case proves to be every bit as complex as it promised at the start. And this particular twisted firestarter is not done yet…
Peter Robinson is remarkable; with every single book for about 6 years, he has been continuing to expand his series, smashing down boundaries, reaching new heights with every single book. While once his reflective Inspector Banks novels were simply nice little procedurals to while away an evening, lately they have become something far more remarkable, and he has moved into the front rank of male crime writers, alongside Ian Rankin and Michael Connelly in writing moving, artful crime novels that shed light on all aspects of human experience. There are so many things to recommend him, not least his evocation of landscape and ability to probe the very human depths of every single characters instinctive motivations. He plots as if he were born to the genre, and his protagonist Banks is a true marvel. Less of a tough-as-nails guy than Bosch or Rebus, Banks is thoughtful, moral, reflective and, dare I say it, not startlingly interesting on the surface (but, of course, therein lies his shining humanity) and in Playing with Fire there are enough personal trials for him to deal with to satisfy any connoisseur of fascinating protagonists. The other human aspects of this book are incredibly well-done; moving and expansive, Robinson reaches out to all his characters, taking them gently by the hand and leading them to the reader, in sometimes shocking ways.
The cracking, multi-faced plot is in itself engaging and clever, with surprises and shifts in tone and pitch that elevate it far above the average. If this fourteenth entry in the series doesn’t line itself up for several international awards, I’ll eat my proof copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspector Banks Novels are Always Worth Reading, 28 April 2007
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Playing with Fire (Paperback)
Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and is the author of a number of previous novels featuring Inspector Banks. He is the winner of numerous awards in the United States, Britain and Canada, and in 2002 he won the CWA Dagger in the Library. As I also come from Leeds the background to his stories is something that I have experienced first hand and because of this I have a special affection for his books. However they would be first class crime fiction wherever they were based.

It is the early hours of a bitterly cold January day, and two narrow boats are ablaze on a dead-end stretch of the Eastvale canal, a job for the fire brigade, but when signs of arson are discovered at the scene DCI Banks and DI Annie Cabbot are called to the crime scene. By the time they get there very little is left of the boats apart from some smoldering wreckage but more importantly human remains have been found in both boats.

The signs point to a deliberate attack, but on who or what. Tom an artist who lived a quiet existence lived on one of the boats and Tina, a sixteen year old girl, hooked on drugs and living with her boyfriend lived on the other. Did either of them have enemies? Someone who was prepared to commit murder and in such a cruel way.

As Banks becomes more involved in the case he realises that there are a number of people acting suspiciously out of character. Then the arsonist strikes again and Banks begins to realise that he is going to be tested to the limit with this case.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing With Fire, 1 Jan. 2015
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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A fire starts late at night on two almost derelict narrow boats on a short stretch of canal which leads nowhere. A body is found on each boat. DCI Alan Banks and DI Annie Cabbot have to find out whether this is murder or an accident and it soon becomes clear that it is murder. There are several suspects but none with a clear forensic connection to the fire. Gradually it becomes clear that there are a web of connections which may or may not lead to the truth. More lives will be lost and even more put in danger before the cases are solved.

I found this gripping reading and it is definitely amongst the best books in this excellent series. The book is well written and well plotted and the relationships and motivations are very well done. I like the way Alan and Annie are adjusting to not being in a relationship and are trying to keep their professional relationship going without letting the personal intrude.

If you like police procedurals with interesting characters and an atmospheric background - the Yorkshire Dales - then give this one a try. The series can be read in any order as all the books can stand alone but it is interesting to see the series characters develop if you read them in the order in which they were published.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Running out of gas?, 25 Jan. 2014
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I didn't find this as satisfying as earlier Banks titles. Too didactic. At times it read like a manual on the forensics of fire, or police procedure and since most of this was done via the medium of reported conversation it felt rather unrealistic. People kept telling each other things they would already have known. And the plot, the characterisation and the procedure felt rather stitched together. Maybe the formula is getting tired.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but at times unfathomable, 5 Jun. 2013
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I decided to give another Banks story a go after reading Watching the Dark which I had thoroughly enjoyed. Playing With Fire started well. Robinson thrusts you straight into the story and immediately grabs your attention. However, the downside is that I think there are just too many characters/suspects and as I didn't have the luxury of being able to read the book in a few days, I quickly became muddled and confused each time I picked it up again. Perhaps that's my problem but I also felt the story in Watching the Dark was a little too intricate and if I hadn't been able to read it in a few days, I would have literally lost the plot.

Still, there is enough there to make me want to give Banks another go. Robinson does a good job with his characterisation of Banks particularly such that I feel like I know him well now and am interested in his life and work.
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DCI BANKS: Playing With Fire (The Inspector Banks Series)
DCI BANKS: Playing With Fire (The Inspector Banks Series) by Peter Robinson (Paperback - 19 Aug. 2011)
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