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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 5 September 2012
I've said it before and I'll say it again - if Peter Robinson's name is on it, I know I'm in for a good read. I enjoyed last year's stand alone novel - Before the Poison. (Winner of the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel by the Crime Writers of Canada) But, I've waiting for the latest installment in Robinson's Inspector Banks series. And it's here! Watching the Dark is the 20th entry in this wonderful series.

Watching the Dark opens at the St. Peter's Police Treatment Centre. Annie Cabot has just left the centre, finally ready to return to work after a lengthy convalescence. So, Alan Banks is familiar with the centre, but didn't expect to be working a case there. Bill Reid, a fellow officer has been murdered on the grounds - by a crossbow. On searching Reid's room, photos of a compromising nature are found. Banks is determined to not judge until his investigation is complete, but Inspector Joanna Passero from Professional Standards (internal investigations) is brought in to 'help' Banks with his inquiries. As Banks digs into Reid's past, he wonders if a cold case of Reid's could be tied to his death.

Robinson takes us out of Eastvale with Banks' investigation and into Estonia. I must admit, I truly had no firm grasp on this country but Robinson did a great job of setting the stage with detailed descriptions and characters. I was surprised to learn that English stag and hen parties take cheap flights over for weekend parties.

I was glad to see Annie Cabot back on the job. She's out to prove herself after being injured and off the job for so long, so she delves into the case with dogged determination. Her investigations keep her in Eastvale, but dealing with the ugly underbelly of this bucolic Yorkshire countryside. She is following the tracks of migrant workers tricked and abused by local criminals. Her storyline takes the stage almost as much as Banks's in this book. That's a good thing, as she's a character I quite enjoy.

Inspector Passero was an interesting addition. I was never really sure of her agenda and Robinson keeps us guessing until the very last chapters. And, I'm still not sure if we really know her - I think she'll make an appearance in the next book, but I'll reserve judgment until then.

I've always enjoyed Banks's love of music and the references to what he's listening to. However it seemed like there were quite a few this time - enough that I found myself skimming over some of these passages.

Robinson has crafted a multi faceted, well paced plot that takes inspiration from current day issues. I did find the end to be tied up a bit too neatly, but all in all it was a read I quite enjoyed. And I'll be waiting for the 21st book!
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on 19 July 2014
I'm reading the Banks series backwards so far, and that's just fine: the novels stand alone pretty well so far. This one is a solid procedural, made interesting by its geographical reach as well as by combining investigation of a six-year-old unsolved case with a double murder on Banks's turf. One of the victims is a convalescing cop, who seems to have been haunted by his failure to solve a case six years ago involving a young girl's disappearance in Tallinn, Estonia. Does his murder have anything to do with that earlier case? When another murder takes place at around the same time and the victim turns out to be an Estonian journalist investigating a people-smuggling operation, Banks realizes that he's going to have to go to Tallinn to seek answers. So we have two investigations going on concurrently -- Banks goes to Estonia and sorts things out there, while in Yorkshire, DI Annie Cabbot, Banks's second-in-command, just back to work after being seriously wounded in an earlier case (see "Bad Boy"), works the Yorkshire angle.

Robinson very skillfully blends the two procedural stories, giving each its due and not rushing his dramatic presentations of the various interviews and conversations. As a result, the subsidiary characters come into sharp focus to lend a sense of reality and credibility to the proceedings -- the disappeared girl's parents, a friend who was with her in Estonia when she disappeared and whose life has gone downhill. The Estonian cop who led the investigation and whom Banks doesn't trust, and the editor of the paper the murdered journalist was working for are also vividly drawn. There is a complication for Banks in the presence of the icily beautiful Joanna Passero from the UK equivalent of Internal Affairs ("Professional Standards"), who is on the case to find out if the murdered cop was honest or not. Banks is given no choice but to have her in on the investigation, and he doesn't much like that.

Writing crime fiction is an exercise in the art of delay in order to generate suspense, and Robinson is a master at filling in details of conversation, of setting, and of the inner thoughts of selected characters (here mainly Cabbot and Banks) in such a way that our understanding is advanced even as the plot line is being held back. Both in Tallinn and in Yorkshire, the investigating cops get breaks, and Robinson is careful to set up the circumstances so that none of these breaks seems incredibly lucky. Rather, we believe that, given the ways in which the investigations are proceeding, such breaks are in fact not at all unlikely. That's how good police procedurals work, and this one is no exception.

Two quibbles: the final chapter takes place about six weeks after the end of the previous one and wraps up a bunch of stuff. I don't think that it's necessary, though. The important stuff is already known, and the dotting of the extra i's and crossing a few more t's don't add anything essential. More seriously, to my mind, Banks's childish and resentful treatment of Joanna just doesn't seem like him -- a point even Joanna makes, for she has heard he was a good boss. Resentment of Internal Affairs is an old story in cop drama and fiction to an extent that it's almost a cliche. Here, it seems totally unnecessary -- Banks isn't interested in protecting dirty cops. For all that, though -- this is, as they say, compulsively readable.
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on 1 April 2013
Had decided after Bad Boy, to give up on Banks, along with the woeful miscasting of the TV series. However, I saw this latest at the library. I agree it is a very slow starter but I stuck with it, and it did eventually get going. I agree with others that Bank's character has undergone some changes and he is rather unlikeable now. This story ticks all the boxes for cardboard cut out baddies,politically correct storylines, product placement and plenty of descriptions of Estonia, which sound like they have been copied from a tourist guide,although the author has spent a lot of time there.I felt the ending was a bit rushed and convenient. If there had been less padding up to this point, it could have been more considered. I am also tired of the references to Banks's classical listening. It used to be another facet of his character, now it just comes over as pretentious. It is hard to believe there have been so many books I have loved reading, featuring Banks, my all-time favourite being The Summer That Never Was, with its brilliant evocation of the era. I hated Bad Boy, for me it was a sign of an author out of ideas. Watching The Dark is better, but if it were the first I had read, it wouldn't make me want to read more.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 August 2012
Peter Robinson has written another chapter in DCI Alan Banks's story. This is an engaging follow-up. The crossbow-killing of a fellow detective, Bill Reid, in a police re-habilitation centre is the starter. Scrutinised by workmates, closely, notably Joanna Pessaro, Banks enters the foray that takes him to Estonia, into the cobbled town of Tallinn. Dark and brooding, the disappearance of Rachel Hewitt 6 years ago after a hen-party sets Banks and Joanna Pressaro (his watchguard) on to the trail that leads to more intrigue. Recovering DI Annie Corbett, from a shooting trauma, is suffering her problems plus, although at homely Eastvale. She has to deal with the Eastern bloc perversity of marketing illegal and immigrant personnel. The interaction with rogue profit-makers with their promises of jobs may be familiar but add lurid corruption to the tale and to Banks's investigation. Meanwhile Banks is off to try to solve the riddle of Rachel's disappearance given the limited information he has at hand. This opens more gates than it shuts, adding to the plot.

Peter Robinson has written an easy readable story that continues DCI Bank's endeavours. This is an in and out enjoyable tale but I did find that there was an effort to take the narrative to it's conclusion. The author admits that he was not sure where the storyline was going. Fittingly, as a professional, he does negotiate an ending. Where next, however? As with all established characters, there is inevitably a limit to how much can be sqeezed out of a character. A further episode will undoubtedly surface. When the balloon finally bursts, I hope it goes with a climactic bang.
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"Watching the Dark" is the latest episode of the usually very entertaining Chief Inspector Alan Banks series, Set in the present, this crime novel opens with the murder of an English copper who had once been on the track of a young woman gone missing on a pre-bridal hen party in Tallinn, Estonia. The dectective's death is followed by a second--this time, an Estonian journalist working on the exploitation of East European laborers in England. C.I. Banks' investigation quickly ties the two murdered men together through the case of the missing English girl. The detailed building of the story early on gives way to an engrossing procedural in two countries, as the dogged Banks and his team of detectives--mostly female officers--gradually close in on a solution to the two murders which in turn leads to a possible closure of the missing person case.

The book has an interesting and original plot, good pacing, with few false notes in the procedural. The action in Estonia details some interesting European geography. But novel's strongest point, I think, is the array of well-developed characters at play. The crimes really are about the interactions of people and their motivations--greed, lust, guilt, etc.--and author Peter Robinson ties all of it up into a rather a neat package.
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DI Bill Quinn is killed by a crossbow bolt in the grounds of a police convalescent home. DI Alan Banks and his team at first think it could be a revenge attack which probably means searching through all his previous cases to find out who could have wished him dead and been in a position to carry out the crime. But there is a hint of police corruption in the air and Joanna Passero of Professional Standards is allocated to shadow the team. DI Annie Cabbot - newly returned to work following her injury in the previous book in the series is gradually finding her feet again.

This is an interesting story featuring several strands including a missing young woman from six years ago, illegal migrant labour and another murder. In fact there are almost too many strands to the story so to me it came over as a little fragmented and I did lose track of the plot part way through and had to go back and refresh my memory. To a certain extent it is redeemed by the ending which I thought was satisfying.

Inevitably in any long running series you get some books which aren't as good as others. Overall though this series is of excellent quality with believable and interesting characters, an authentic background and well constructed plots.
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on 30 July 2013
I said in a review of one of Peter Robinson's recent books that I had been a fan for a long time but that the standard had been slipping to a level that was now unacceptable and, if there was no improvement, I wouldn't be buying any more. With Watching the Dark I have reached that "no more, this is the last" point. The plotting is wildly inadequate. SPOILER ALERT--DON'T READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW HOW HE UNTIES THE KNOT. He gets his story so hopelessly knotted up that the only way he can get out of it is by having a long-time criminal, who has never shown any sign of taking this action, walk into the police station and say, "I want to go straight. Here's what we did." Those old enough to remember Morecambe and Wise will recall Eric finding some inanimate object--an empty suit of armour, for example--and saying "What do you think of the show so far?" to which the object would reply "Rubbish!" Well, that's how I feel about this book. In fact, I don't really know why I've given it two stars instead of one. A very, very poor effort.
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on 2 September 2012
I am a big fan of the Banks Series and have been long before the TV series, So I couldn't wait to get my copy of the new book as soon as it came out. Unfortunately I was actually disappointed this time, which has never happened before. Banks seems to have changed his character and comes across as bei a bit shallow and childish at times. i love the fact that these books are so atmospheric and have lots of lovely detail in about North Yorkshire, but this was sadly missing this time. I am normally gripped by the 'Banks' books and can't put them down but this time I actually struggled to get through it. I can't quite put my finger on what it is that makes this book not so good as the others, it's a shame though, I wanted to enjoy it!
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on 3 April 2013
i have been reading lots of books, since i have been off work for 3 months, and happened upon, a book called "before the poison" by peter robinson. i have to say what initially attracted me was the creepy house on the cover, and as i love a thriller i was sold. i normally have trouble keeping my concentration with books, and remembering the characters, names when my mind wanders from the plot. however with this book, i was gripped. i took it too bed with me every evening, and couldn't wait to read the next chapter, and then the next!!! i am now a fully signed up fan of mr.robinson's and am currently reading "watching the dark"

i can see that there is a back catalogue of books of peters to get my teeth into, and i for one can't wait, brilliant.
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2015
This is a very good novel from Peter Robinson. Banks is investigating the death of a fellow policeman and soon gets entangled in an unsolved disappearance that the dead man had investigated. Throughout his investigation, Banks is accompanied by a Professional Standards officer, much to his chagrin, but their relationship thaws a little as they both travel to Estonia to get to the bottom of the case, which involves organised crime, slave labour, drugs and blackmail. Annie Cabbot is back too, after her serious injury, and makes a valuable contribution, leading the local investigation while Banks is abroad. A strong, tense plot, good characters, and a dark atmosphere make this a rewarding read.
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