Most helpful critical review
56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyed it, but not one of his best
on 7 December 2008
My reviews of other books by Peter Robinson bear witness that I am a great admirer of his books. I enjoyed this one to the point I read it in one sitting, but it left me feeling slightly disappointed and unsatisfied. Why?
With favourite authors the expectation rises higher and higher with each book, so perhaps my expectations were a little unreasonable. After all, it was not a bad book, but still I didn't get into it as much as I would have liked. I have identified a few reasons.
Credibility. The story revolves around a murder and suicide. The perpetrator is soon established, but not the motive. When it comes to light that the murder victim was in the Secret Service, there is strong pressure from the spooks to close the case, despite there being many unanswered questions. Banks of course does no such thing. Fair enough, but I find it hard to believe that the Secret Service these days have no qualms about intimidation and even murder, just to protect the government's credibility (especially this one!). In fact Annie Cabbot says the same on this last point when arguing with Banks. Nor do I believe a policeman would put his own life and the lives of people he loves at risk merely to prove his theory about why the murder happened, when he knows who did it. Some suspension of disbelief is of course necessary but here, unlike his other books, there were times I found myself saying "Come on, that could NEVER happen!"
He's started to overdo the music references. I love music and it's nice to have the occasional reference to works by my favourite composers. But I don't think we need to be talked through Shostakovich's 13th Symphony in such detail - those who aren't interested in Shostakovich will surely become bored, and those who are won't be too chuffed that the text mentions a tenor solo when in fact there is no tenor solo (only a bass) in this symphony. That might sound a bit nitpicky but if we are given so much detail, it should at least be correct. In fairness to Robinson, he usually gets the details of some very obscure works absolutely right, so maybe the blame lies with some cloth-eared editor.
I'm a bit tired of the obligatory love interest too. To be fair, Robinson keeps the latest girlfriend out of the way most of the time, but if I want to read a love story I'll buy a romantic novel.
Finally, I noticed an element of sloppiness in the writing that is uncharacteristic of this author. For example, two consecutive sentences started "Annie imagined that..." and while that's not bad English, it is not quite the fluent, well thought out style I normally associate with Peter Robinson.
This author on an off day is still a heck of a lot better than many authors at their peak, and I would still recommend this book, especially if you have enjoyed the series so far. Be warned though that it is not, in my opinion anyway, one of his best.