Thursday, July 26, 2018

Peter Robinson's The Hanging Valley

"A suspense thriller without the car chases and special effects that so often marred that type of film for Banks, it concentrated on the psychology of policeman and victim."
That's a film that Alan Banks, Peter Robinson's detective hero sees on his flight from Toronto back to England. But it's also a programmatic statement of the kind of novel this is and that Robinson writes. Certainly there are no car chases in this.

The Hanging Valley (1989) is the fourth of Robinson's Inspector Banks novels; there are so far 24 in the series, though Peter Robinson is still writing. It's the fifth I've read. The series is set in a fictional town in Yorkshire, where Banks starts as a policeman newly arrived from London.

In this one, a hiker finds a body while walking on the fells near the Lake District; the victim's been dead nearly a fortnight and beaten around the face. The first task is to identify the body.

But it's the same small village where Banks' superior Gristhorpe had worked on an unsolved murder and the disappearance of a woman five years earlier. Superintendant Gristhorpe suspects they're connected, and well, of course they are.

There are four main suspects in this: the two Collier brothers, descended from the landed gentry of the area, their father sold off the land and turned that money to more productive uses, so they remain rich. There's John Fletcher, who bought some of that land and is now a gentleman farmer; whatever his source of money is, unspecified, he doesn't need to make his farming pay. And there's Sam Greenock, who with his wife, scraped together enough money to buy a small inn in the village.

This one was fun for me because it takes a detour to Toronto, where Banks travels to find out a crucial clue. All he knows is he needs to visit English-style pubs, and somebody gives him a list of them in Toronto:
"The Madison, The Sticky Wicket, Paupers, the Hop and Grape, the Artful Dodger, The Jack Russell, The Spotted Dick, The Feathers, Quigley's, not to mention a whole dynasty of Dukes."
I suspect those are or at least were all real Toronto pubs. Certainly I've been to several, and Paupers is just down the street. Banks doesn't get to Paupers, though. The clue he needs is finally discovered at The Feathers, and I have the sneaking suspicion that is or was Peter Robinson's local, since I know he lives on the east side. It looks cute in the pictures, but it's one I've never been to.

It's hard to tell but that's a picture of Toronto on that calendar on the cover of the book.

Banks takes that clue back to Yorkshire, but in the meantime there's been another murder, though initially it looks like accident or suicide. The pressure's on, and there is definitely some thriller-ish suspense at the end, with another body yet to come, even if it doesn't involve car chases.

So it was enjoyable, though I have to admit that the psychology went on a little long for me. There are a number of chapters from Katie Greenock's point of view, the wife of Sam and half-owner of the inn. She's an important character in the events in the present, but I didn't find her especially convincing and her psychology seemed a bit heavy-handed. The best of the ones from the series that I've read definitely remains In A Dry Season.

Vintage Mystery Challenge. Silver. Where. Set In A Small Village.

Also the first for my new Canadian book challenge.


  1. Can you believe I've never read a Peter Robinson? This one does look fun for its excursion to Toronto.

    1. I've got a couple of others on my TBR pile that will likely be showing up...