Peter Robinson is best known for his book-length work concerning
the exploits of Detective Inspector Alan Banks of the London Major
Crimes Unit, which makes THE PRICE OF LOVE AND OTHER STORIES a
much-anticipated and most welcome treasure.
Banks is somewhat low-key, possessed of an encyclopedic
knowledge of popular music and a tendency to be unlucky in love. He
is also, to the criminal mind, a quite lethal adversary.
Robinson’s sharp characterizations of not only Banks but also
of his supporting cast combine with intriguing plots to make this
series a revered one among mystery aficionados. The 12 shorter
works that comprise THE PRICE OF LOVE do not all concern Banks, but
exhibit the same high quality of craft as do their better known
(and longer) cousins.
THE PRICE OF LOVE is wisely and delightfully bookended by two
Inspector Banks novellas. “Going Back” opens the
volume; it had never been published in the United States before,
though portions of it appear in CLOSE TO HOME. The story deals with
Banks’s somewhat reluctant return home for a family reunion
occasioned by his parents’ golden wedding anniversary.
Robinson does not begin with pyrotechnics; instead, he pulls off
the neat trick of perfectly capturing the tediousness of coming
back to a small town and the awkwardness of an adult child around
aged parents with whom contact is infrequent and irregular. Even
so, Robinson somehow manages to quietly ratchet up the suspense in
“Like a Virgin,” the novella that closes the
collection, was written especially for THE PRICE OF LOVE. Banks
revisits the horrific event that resulted in his transplant from
London to Eastvale. While suspenseful, it is the cerebral aspects
of “Like a Virgin” that ultimately make the story what
it is. The manner in which Robinson slices in and out of life and
the emotions, constructive and otherwise, define our humanity. As
with so much of his work, he mines deep territory without burying
the reader in the gravitas of the subject matter. It is a perfect
way to end the book.
And what about the material that lays between the beginning and
end? These stories --- even the eight pieces that don’t
feature Banks --- are also worth reading. One does not think of
Robinson as a writer of dark fantasy, yet “The Magic of Your
Touch” is just that --- and perfect to boot. Fans of the
genre will see what’s coming within the first page or two,
yet the joy of the journey is such that you will not mind.
“Birthday Dance,” on the other hand, tiptoes slowly to
a bad place that is revealed about two-thirds of the way through;
even after its surprising revelation, Robinson saves the best for
last, a shocking scene that is only a sentence or two in length yet
stays coiled in the mind.
With so many good stories --- not a bad one in the pack ---
it’s hard to choose a winner. Actually, on second thought,
it’s not. “Blue Christmas,” a Banks story written
for a limited edition work, is worth the price of admission all by
itself. While it is very different from most of the tales appearing
in the Banks canon, anyone unfamiliar with Robinson’s work
will immediately seek out each and every volume that he has written
based on this short and simple account dealing with the
interruption of Banks’s Christmas by a missing persons
Robinson is simply incapable of writing anything badly. And THE
PRICE OF LOVE features 12 self-contained examples of writing done
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 19, 2011