18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Peter Robinson's Close to Home is an excellent crime/suspense novel that actually gets stronger as it goes along. The novel concerns the unexplained deaths of two teenage boys, over thirty years apart. Inspector Banks returns home from a Greek vacation to deal with the discovery of the bones of one of his old classmates who had been missing since the mid-sixties. The story of this murder is juxtaposed with the story of a young man who has disappeared and is soon discovered dead. The novel is full of suspense and plenty of red herrings. It's an enjoyable read, especially at the end. Frankly at the start I was a little wary. I've read a couple newly-discovered bones mysteries lately, and wasn't exactly searching for another, but this one keeps getting stronger as it goes along to its satisfying finish. Enjoy.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2003
Two incidents scarred a 14 year old Alan Banks in 1965: the first was a near assault at the hands a derelict (and possible pedophile/murderer), and the second was the disappearance of his good friend, Graham Marshall. Banks, has always feared that his failure to report the attempted assault may have resulted in Graham's disappearance and death. Now, when Banks reads in the newspapers some 40 odd years later, that Graham's remains have been found in a field, he immediately returns to his childhood home in Petersborough in order to offer whatever help the police officer currently in charge of Graham's case (the fetching DI Michelle Hart) is willing to accept, and to hopefully discover what happened to Graham and, finally, to close one of the more painful chapters of his life. And while a seasoned policeman like Alan Banks knows full well that all kinds of dark and painful secrets are likely to be uncovered and aired while a murder investigation is being conducted, not even he is fully prepared for the level of corruption that he and Michelle soon find themselves in the middle of...
This is, I think, the best British police procedural that I've read in the past 4 months at least. I liked the manner in which Peter Robinson juxtaposed the investigation into the long ago murder of Graham Marshall with the more current one of Luke Armitage (another teenage boy with secrets) so seamlessly. And I thought that the manner in which Robinson handled the various motifs -- Banks' memories of what was going on that fateful year, Banks' difficult realtionship with his working-class parents, the fact that parents (no matter how loving) actually have very little idea of what's going on in their children's lives, Annie Cabbot's initial handling of the Luke Armitage case, etc -- was really well done. I also liked the manner in which the authour drew things out, all the while slowly building on the level of suspense/tension (as each new plot development is revealed) so that you really had that on-the-edge-of-your-seat feeling.
"Close to Home" proved to be a totally engrossing mystery novel that was incredibly hard to put down -- the characters were well drawn and fully developed; the subplots were intriguing, full of rich detail, atmospheric and vivid imagery; and the narrative style was subtle and nicely nuanced. My vote: "Close to Home" is definitely one of the early contenders for best mystery novel of the year.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2003
This Peter Robinson mystery is one of the best available,
and it is truly difficult to put down once started.
The hero, Chief D.I. Alan Banks is a complex character, in
both his professional and his personal life, and this book
continues his evolution as he continues to think about his
ex-wife, as well as his 2 children and their careers, and as
he wonders frequently where his personal life is headed.
Plus, he is facing "burn-out," as the murders and criminals
he faces routinely blunt his emotions and feelings, and he
fears he is withdrawing from some of his professional life.
The story revolves around 2 missing children, one of which
becomes his current case when the teen-age boy is found dead,
and the other of which was his buddy when he disappeared in
1965. There are so many parallels, Banks worries about both
cases, and he is drawn to the investigation of the old 1965
case in his hometown of Petersborough, while handling the
investigation of the other boy in his own jurisdiction of
While Banks worries about his relationship with one of his
detectives, Annie, he meets up with an intriguing red-haired,
green-eyed woman detective, Michelle, who is working the
old 1965 case with new clues. So Banks has a lot on his
mind as he unravels one mystery, and he gets fully involved
in the second.
Both cases involve personal danger to both Banks and his staff,
and there is plenty of action, as well as the intellectual
stimulation Robinson puts together, and this is a very
satisifiying book, and one that is highly recommended.
Plus, you can learn a lot about English countryside life
and work, while Banks visits his retired parents and makes
the rounds while helping with the 1965 case.
Entertaining and fun.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2003
There are 2 story lines with DCI Banks as the link. Both of the lines are fairly strong although the constant shifting somewhat deflates the momentum of each thread. Although this is the strongest entry in the series since "In a Dry Season", there are some minor annoyances to long-standing readers of the series. It would be welcome if Banks didn't end up sleeping with virtually every young female DI he encounters. More importantly, the resolution is somewhat too pat and contrived. It is possible that the book may have been improved if Robinson had utilized only one story line with fuller development of the characters. Despite these quibbles, long time readers of the series certainly will not be disappointed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2003
"They were linked in his mind in some odd way. Not technically, of course, but two very different boys from very different times had ended up dead before their time, and both had died violently. Banks wanted to know why, what it was about these two children that had attracted such cruel fate." So thinks Detective Alan Banks as he seeks answers to the mysteries currently on his plate.
CLOSE TO HOME by Peter Robinson is the latest in the Alan Banks mystery series and the Yorkshire Detective Chief Inspector demonstrates why the mystery genre continues to draw new fans. The discovery of the bones of Graham Marshall, a boyhood "mate" of the inspector, leads him back to his hometown in hopes of helping to resolve the case. Solving a 30 year-old murder would be difficult enough, but when the threads begin to unravel cover-ups and well kept secrets, the task becomes almost impossible.
Meanwhile, in his own bailiwick, another youngster has disappeared. This time it is fifteen year-old Luke Armitage who may have been kidnapped and then murdered. The pieces of evidence surrounding the case just don't fit and, once again, determination and dedication finally help uncover the key elements.
The two investigations are conducted simultaneously and Robinson moves the action effortlessly between Yorkshire and Peterborough. With his co-worker and former lover, Detective Inspector Anne Cabbot, following leads in the current case, Banks can spend time with DI Michelle Hart working on the Graham case. The women and the characters in each location are well defined so you never find yourself wondering which case is being discussed.
CLOSE TO HOME offers plenty of crisp dialogue, seasoned with enough English flavoring to make it interesting. On this side of the ocean we smile as we get an inside look at pubs named The Pig and Whistle and The Woolpack. And did you know that in England a police lineup is called an identity parade? A book of mug shots is a villains' album? And to waste time is to piss about? I haven't quite figured out all the ramifications of "sod" and maybe I shouldn't even ask!
Peter Robinson also has a knack for including trivia and triggers nostalgic feelings when he flashes back to the 60's. The pace of the story was a little slow at times but never enough to distract from the unfolding stories. Avid mystery fans will be delighted with the opportunity of solving these two cases along with the police. For a leisurely read, CLOSE TO HOME will not let you down.
--- Reviewed by Maggie Harding
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2003
Now, this is only my second taste of Peter Robinson. My first came when I eagerly read Gallows View the first Inspector Banks novel, and came away suitably impressed. Impetuous as I am, I decided to abandon series order and read this latest one. Naughty, but true. Needless to say, I am now positive that I have been missing out on a great series.
In the summer of 1965, Graham Marshall, a young boy and friend of Alan Banks, disappeared into thin air while on his paper round. Now, decades later, some human bones are unearthed not ten miles from his home. They are quickly identified as Graham's.
Alan Banks is holidaying in Greece (recuperating from his last, affecting case) when he reads of the discovery of his old friend's remains in a newspaper, and promptly decides that it's time to return to see if he can lend a hand.
While all this is going on, another young boy disappears in Yorkshire, and while the dual cases are entirely unconnected, for Banks they still hold eerie similarities, as they echo each other across the gap of years. Then, curious memories begin to surface about his old friend. Memories which may have a bearing upon what happened, and memories that Banks now wants explaining...
It is clear that Chief Inspector Banks has remained the likeable, delightfully realistic protagonist that I met in Gallows View, and I suspect that for long-term fans it'll be a great treat to meet, as we do in this book, his parents.
This is often a very nostalgic novel, giving us insight into Bank's childhood at the same time as being both moving and haunting. The writing is clean and sharp, the plot is good (although nothing extra special) and structured well, he develops his characters adequately (in fact, I am probably missing out a little due to not reading the series in order), and they are very interesting. Although I would like to have got to know Michelle Hart a bit better. But then, I expect he's storing that up for the next one... The police procedural aspects are handled with the skill and knowledge of a seasoned profession, and at times he certainly shows himself to be more than qualified to challenge such greats in the field of British police procedure as Ian Rankin and Reginald Hill.
The solutions to both parallel mysteries are satisfying and quite unexpected. Existing fans of Banks (and I now count myself most definitely among them) are sure to be pleased with this novel, as are readers new to him. (Although, those of you that are new to him, I would, in retrospect, recommend reading the series completely in order.)
Ian Rankin clearly has some hot competition following hot on his heels.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Though he is vacationing in Greece to get away from the griminess of police work, English Detective Inspector Alan Banks follows the news reports from home. He is stunned when he learns that an excavator has dug up the skeletal remains of a teenage boy near his hometown of Petersborough. He knows the victim is his childhood friend Graham Marshal missing since 1965. Just before the disappearance, Alan feels guilty because a stranger assaulted him, but he escaped and never reported the incident to his family or the police.
Alan cannot ignore the investigation so he returns home. There he learns that fifteen-year-old Luke Armitage is missing and his former girlfriend Annie Cabbot is working the case. Fearing the worst for Luke and feeling he owes Graham, Alan dives into both inquiries in an attempt to relieve some of the remorse he has carried for too many years.
CLOSE TO HOME is an exhilarating police procedural that plays out on several levels besides the obvious dual investigations. Alan is a complex character who seemed on the verge of burn out until his conscience makes him cut short his R&R. The rest of the cast provides depth whether they played chess with the protagonist in Greece or are involved in the inquiries in England. With novels like this character driven compelling who-done-it and AFTERMATH, fans will appreciate the skills of Peter Robinson, who is bound to become regarded on both sides of the Atlantic.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In Peter Robinson's latest Inspector Banks novel, "Close to Home," Banks interrupts an idyllic vacation on a Greek island to look into the death of a childhood friend. Graham Marshall, a "mate" of Alan Banks when they were both teenagers, disappeared in 1965. A worker digging the foundation for a new shopping center unexpectedly uncovers a skeleton that turns out to be Graham's remains. Who killed Graham and why? Coincidentally, Banks, along with his former lover, Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, also begins looking into the disappearance of Luke Armitage, a troubled teenager from a well-known family.
Banks has changed greatly over the years. He is mellower and more reflective than he has ever been before. Although he still likes to smoke and drink, Banks is beginning to feel the effects a bit more, and he is actually trying to cut down. In addition, now that his ex-wife and children have moved on with their lives, Banks has had a great deal of time to take stock of where his own life is heading.
"Close to Home" has many of Peter Robinson's trademark touches. The author delves deeply into the psyche of his characters. Robinson takes the time to humanize the police officers, the criminals, and the suspects in his novels. The reader becomes involved with their predicaments and deeply invested in the outcome of the story. In addition, Robinson introduces another interesting female character, Detective Inspector Michelle Hart, a woman with a tragic past to whom Banks is attracted.
In "Close to Home," unfortunately, Robinson missteps a bit. First of all, he has gone to the well once too often when he chose the "bones uncovered after many years" story line. This plot was used successfully in Robinson's own "In a Dry Season", and again in at least three other mysteries that I have read recently. I am surprised at this lack of originality in an author as creative as Robinson. In addition, at almost four hundred pages, the book meanders a bit and takes too long to reach its melodramatic denouement.
In addition, Robinson is a little too heavy handed when he hammers home his recurring theme, which is that the past is never really behind us. Until we come to terms with the events of long ago, and until we exorcise the demons that plague us, we can never hope to face the future and find happiness in life. Robinson has expressed this viewpoint in his previous novels many times, but with more finesse and subtlety than he does here. I have come to expect a great deal from an author as accomplished as Peter Robinson. Although "Close to Home" is a serviceable mystery, it is not an excellent one.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
CLOSE TO HOME is a well-written mystery, or should I describe this book as two mysteries. And, although the protagonist for both stories is Inspector Banks, a policeman in the village of Eastvale in Middle England, the series is not a police procedural as such. Also, forensics while important are not described in all their gory detail. Rather the forensic results are used to shape the investigation.
Mystery #1 involves the disappearance 30 years earlier (1965) of Alan Banks chum Graham, whose bones are recovered in the opening chapters. Because Graham's body has surfaced (literally) the case is changed from "missing 16-year old" to murder. It takes a while to determine the actual cause of death, but suffice it to say a corpse does not bury itself.
Mystery #2 involves the current investigation into the disappearance of a 15-year old boy whose famous musician father committed suicide years earlier, and whose stepfather and mother are frantic with worry.
To complicate matters, Banks is working on case #1 with his old girlfriend Annie, and case #2 with his new friend Michelle. Both female detectives experience their moments of peril, but Banks is able to neatly juggle the investigations and both women as well as a trip to yesterday when Emma Peel reigned on tv and the Krays reigned on the East End of London.
I liked the Inspector Banks book,IN A DRY SEASON, but I thought the novel that followed a silly excursion. In CLOSE TO HOME I find Inspector Banks is back on my list of good mysteries to read even if he is a bit macho for my tastes.. Give me Miss Marple any day.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2004
I enjoyed this one much better than the author's Aftermath.
There are actually two investigations in this book - one in the present and one thirty years before. Although the ending is not a cliffhanger, it's a good read, especially if you are following the Inspector banks series.