The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the books category link on the far right sidebar.
Peter Robinson’s latest book, Children Of The Revolution, intertwines a murder mystery while bringing back the seventies era. As with all of his books Robinson explores a few social issues within a strong character based story. For this novel, he discussed the issues of date rape, sexual abuse, abuse of power, betrayal, Marxism, and the comparison of students in the seventies with today. What makes the plot intriguing is the use of folk music lyrics to enhance it.
Being a Grateful Dead fan he used their songs to enrich the plot. He noted, “ Folk songs talk about love and murder. I thought of the idea from the time I did performances in England with Martin Carthy. I wrote a story specifically around the songs he wanted to sing. He would open with a song and then I would start reading the story, pause, and have him sing another song. Five songs were chosen throughout and the short stories, Deadly Pleasures, was specifically written for this performance. By the way, Carthy was one of the people who introduced Bob Dylan to England in the sixties.”
Children of the Revolution begins with Inspector Banks investigating the death of a recluse college professor who was dismissed for alleged sexual misconduct four years ago. Along with 5,000 pounds found in his pockets, Professor Gavin Miller’s body position indicated that the cause of death was not natural. Banks struggles to find answers as to why Miller would have committed suicide and begins to wonder if he was pushed off the nearby bridge. Robbery, blackmail, or revenge is the possible motive for the untimely death. Banks suspects Lady Veronica Chalmers because of her apparent link with the victim going back to the early seventies at the University of Essex, then a hotbed of political activism. After the inquiries, he is brought on the carpet by his supervisors and warned to stop. Banks continues to conduct his investigation under the radar, with the help of new DC Geraldine Masterson, DI Annie Cabbot and DS Winsome Jackman.
Robinson commented to blackfive.net, “My stories start with the setting, in this case the old abandoned railway line that had a bridge overhead. I thought this would be an interesting place to find a body. Then I began to look at British contemporary history and thought it would be interesting to see what happened to those people from the seventies era. I came up with a plot that allowed me to do this. I enjoy writing about the characters. In fact, I never know who did it until I am part way through the plot and a character seems to present itself.”
Readers can see the evolution of Detective Alan Banks from his initial appearance in 1987 to now where he is a lot more cynical and melancholy. He is an old fashioned detective that would rather use his thought process, assessment of characters and his own decision-making than the modern technology of today. This can be exemplified with the quote by Banks, “I’ve often thought that solving a crime has far more to do with understanding people and their motives than it does with spectrographic analysis and DNA.” Robinson does not see his main character as a hero figure or a brilliant sleuth like Sherlock Holmes but does think “he is from the age group that finds political correctness rather tedious.”
Blackfive.net was given a heads up about his next book, whose title for the British audience will be Abattoir Blues, but could change for the American reader. The theme deals with some rural crimes in Northern England, that Robinson considers “a nice backdrop for a murder mystery.”
Children of the Revolution has Banks pondering aging and his mortality as well as his career. Through his contrast of the different periods including student life the readers will learn about those eras. This book is complex and thought provoking between a riveting mystery and an exploration of the social issues.