Peter Robinson pens thrilling tales rich with keen observations, pitch perfect dialogue, and shocking plot twists that have fascinated readers all over the world and made him one of the greatest suspense novelists alive. His acclaimed novels featuring Detective Inspector Alan Banks rank among the most celebrated police procedural series in modern fiction. In Not Safe After Dark and Other Stories, Robinson showcases once again his extraordinary talents with a collection of twenty stories, including three featuring Inspector Banks.
- Paperback: 496 pages
- Summer Rain: a DCI Banks story (1994) Set in July 1998, a visiting American claims to have died fourteen times, and that on his last death he was murdered. Upon investigation, Banks finds out that his latest “memory” was in fact a real memory of him witnessing the death of his father in his grandparent’s home. The grandparents accidentally killed his father (and their son) by pushing him down the stairs and after coming clean to the police, 40 years after the fact, they decide to kill themselves so that they would not face jail. Some things are better kept silent.
- Fan Mail (1989) Dennis Quilley is a crime-fiction writer from Toronto. When he receives an unusual request from a fan, he decides against his better judgement to help a man kill his wife. He researches different poisons and figures out that nightshade (digitalin) is the best way to induce a natural-looking heart attack to his fan’s already obese wife. To his surprise, the wife shows up at his doorstep a few months later and introduces herself as a widow. She found out what her husband was up to and managed to avoid the poison and kill him instead. She decides to blackmail the writer with her knowledge of them two meeting in order to keep on living her decadent lifestyle.
- Innocence (1990) Terry Reed was accused then cleared of the murder of a schoolgirl. This novel is pretty scary as an innocent look towards a schoolgirl can be re-interpreted as lust, a casual talk among co-workers can be deemed as the plannings of a degenerate, and a man in the wrong place can be accused of murder and rape and a taste for kids. The ending is quite sad. The media portrayed Terry as a psychopathic child molester for weeks during the trial and they only allocated a small section in the news when he was cleared of all charges. This media demonisation ruined his job, his life and made him a pariah in his own neighborhood. He decides to kill himself when he meets another young girl..
- Murder in Utopia (2000). Set in 1916 Yorkshire, the story is told from the POV of the local village doctor. He finds out that the victim they fished out of the river that they assumed died by accident was in fact bashed over the head and killed by a local who thought he was the cause of his wife dying of Anthrax poisoning from working with sheep wool. The sheriff hushes the whole affair in order to keep “Utopia” clear of murder in the eyes of the outside world.
Anthrax is a rare infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax occurs naturally around the world in wild and domestic hoofed animals, especially cattle, sheep, goats, camels and antelopes.
- Not Safe After Dark (1992) This was probably my favourite story of the lot. A guy goes for a walk in Central Park well after dark and he’s wondering why people think it’s not safe when the park is such an amazing place to contemplate nature and walk in peace and soak in the quietness. It turns out that the peace-loving guy was actually a psychopath in search for his victim and that it was indeed, not safe after dark – but for other people, not for him.
- Just My Luck (1992) Walter Dimchuk, a Torontonian at a conference in Los Angeles picks up a hooker, then another one. Not such a great story.
- Anna Said: a DCI Banks story in 10 sections (1992) with DI Susan Gay. Anna Said appears to have died from flu or food poisoning, but she was poisoned by a condom laced with pesticide that her ex. He snuck into her house, tainted the condom with pesticides and when she had sex with her new boyfriend, he got dizzy and she died. He did look surprised when he found out she had changed the beneficiary of her life insurance.
- Missing in Action (2000) With Frank Bascombe, set in wartime Yorkshire. Not so great..
- Memory Lane (1998) Source: stories recounted by others. A Muso at a “shitty gig” in a Vancouver nursing home.
- Carrion (1995) Source: an unusual piece of information. A bank worker in The City meets a stranger in his lunchtime pub.
- April in Paris (2001) Set in 1968 Paris, the summer of revolution. April smokes, but she is “killed by love”.
- The Good Partner: a DCI Banks story (1994) Kim Fosse has been murdered and her husband David is suspected. Set in November 1993, and involves DC Susan Gay.
- Some Land in Florida (1996) Set in Florida among Canadian vacationers, Bud Schiller dies in a condo pool, dressed as Santa Claus. But he has duped several people of their life savings in land scams, and the “gumshoe” narrator decides it was not suspicious. He investigates the murder and finds out that his former victims had gotten together and plotted for months to kill him. It’s like Murder on the Orient Express but set in a condo.
- The Wrong Hands (1998) An old man gets rid of an unlicensed gun by giving it to his lawyer. The lawyer gets mugged on the way home and the gun disappears and so does the old man’s last will and testament. The lawyer manages to get a new will drawn up and signed but the gun stays missing for a while longer until the old man is shot in his own house and the police claim it was done by an old gun, possibly a Ruger. When the lawyer pays his condolences and wishes to get the young widow to entrust the estate management to him, he finds her as a calm and collected woman and stupidly, he confesses that he lost the gun that killed her husband. Instead of coming clean to the police as well, he embarks in a romantic relationship with the widow until he gets a call that the Ruger had been found in his house and he’s now a prime suspect in a murder case.
- The Two Ladies of Rose Cottage (1997) Set in 1930s to 1950s Yorkshire, about two old ladies and the mystery of Rose Cottage. The fun part was the two old ladies were in fact mother and daughter and the mother had killed a man in her youth and gone undiscovered for nearly 50 years.
- Lawn Sale (1994) Set in the Toronto “Beaches” about the theft of a man’s mementoes of his dead wife. He suspects a teenager living upstairs and he begs the teenager’s mother for her son to return the stolen goods – especially a ring his wife used to wear. The ring is nowhere to be found and in despair, the old man decides to go upstairs with a gun to force them to admit what they’ve done with his dead wive’s ring. He stops shooting the young man at the last moment because of a swastika tattoo he sees beneath his eye. This reminded him of his days in the war when he shot a Nazi soldier up-close. What I didn’t understand though is why he was collecting Nazi memorabilia (the spoon, the knife, etc)
- Gone to the Dawgs (2002) Theme American Football. This was like Bates in Psycho! This 50-year old man, living with his hypochrondiac mother decides to kill his arch-enemy – a man who consistently won the bets on football during a season. It’s not just that he won, it’s the fact that he would brag about it. The opportunity arises when our loser guy spots his prey coming out drunk from a pub and he decides to run him over with his car. He is never caught but he still loses the bets for that season because he called the wrong number to place his final numbers. He is wondering what his purpose in life is when his annoying mom calls for hot milk. He goes upstairs with the intention to kill her.
- In Flanders Fields (first published in this collection) With Frank Bascombe, set in wartime Yorkshire.
- The Duke’s Wife (2002) Theme Shakespeare, set in Vienna when ruled by a Duke. I liked this story – told from the POV of a female – the story follows a young girl as she escapes the complicated requests a Duke’s right hand made in order to spare her brother of death for having sex before marriage. She marries the Duke and she is loving her lush life until she hears tale that the seedy old man that wanted to take her virginity is now having sex with other women that just got to the city – as young and as nubile as they get. She pretends to be such a girl to be able to catch him in the act, but she nearly gets raped as he overpowers her. She stabs him with a knife she brought with her and muses that one of the benefits of being the Duke’s wife is getting away with murder.
- Going Back: a DCI Banks novella in 22 sections. I loved this story the best – probably because it was the longest of the book and it had time to flesh out some of the characters. The inspector goes home to his parents before their Golden Anniversary and finds that a new character had insinuated himself in his parent’s life. A local, Jeff, had taken to doing odd jobs around the house, vacuuming, shopping, helping with the maintenance. Banks is flustered by this intrusion and does not like this character at all, especially after he gives the wrong change back to his parents, keeping a few pounds to himself. You might not think that’s not enough to tip an inspector of something amiss but you know what they say, steal an egg today, a bull tomorrow. So as the celebrations go underway, he asks his policemen friends to run a background check on this guy. He reconnects with an old love, we hear tales of other petty thefts in the area, we meet his parents and brother and new possible sister-in-law. As the story unfolds, you get to feel like you’ve known everyone for ages and that you’re in there with Banks in the middle of things. There are loads of heartwarming moments and one A-ha moment when the inspector manages to get Jeff to confess about bigger thefts and some murders. Yay!
All in all, an entertaining read and the short format of the stories made them easy to follow and sometimes quick to forget. I’ve read this book about 5 days ago and I can barely remember the details of some of the plots. Still 3/5.