Review

All the Colors of Darkness

by Peter Robinson

One of the high points of any year for me is the arrival of a
new Peter Robinson book. Chief Detective Inspector Alan Banks,
Robinson’s creation, has become synonymous with the subgenera
of the British police procedural novel in much the same way that Ed
McBain’s Steve Carella has become synonymous with the
American version of that work. Robinson takes chances with Banks, a
character who is not entirely likable, not because of some flawed
moral compass but simply because at times he is a little hard to
take.

A bachelor in spite of himself, it is somewhat easy to see why
he is unlucky in love; his off-track record includes Annie Cabbot,
a detective supervisor who is under his immediate supervision. The
end of that particular relationship has resulted in a somewhat
prickly state of affairs between Banks and Cabbot, one that
continues in ALL THE COLORS OF DARKNESS, Robinson’s latest
novel.

The story begins, rather symbolically, with the discovery of a
body hanging from a tree in a park. The deceased, Mark Hardcastle,
is the set and costume designer for a local amateur theater
company. At first it appears to be a suicide. The subsequent
discovery of the horribly bludgeoned body of Hardcastle’s
lover, however, widens the scope of the investigation to the extent
that Banks is called back from a holiday with his new girlfriend.
Banks is initially peeved by the interruption but soon becomes
obsessed with the case, particularly when it is revealed that the
bludgeoned victim was, and still may be, in the clandestine foreign
service. Everyone except Banks and, to some extent, Cabbot is quick
to dispose of the case as a murder-suicide.

Indeed, Banks receives a late night visit from a mysterious
stranger who advises him to let the case lie, an instruction echoed
by his own superiors the next day. He is practically ordered to
continue his interrupted holiday, but he cannot let go of his
investigation, particularly when it appears that Hardcastle may
have been manipulated into killing his lover. Banks is being warned
from all sides --- including some unexpected ones --- and even a
veiled threat against his new girlfriend is not enough to warn him
off the trail.

There is an undercurrent in the air that leads to
Othello, one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.
Othello was being staged by Hardcastle’s theater
troupe. Did the underlying themes of jealousy and revenge motivate
Hardcastle? Or was someone inspired to manipulate Hardcastle in the
same manner in which the Bard’s Moor was so tragically
ill-used? Perhaps Britain’s spy service is involved, given
that Hardcastle’s lover was intertwined with them. Banks
becomes obsessed with the truth, even when, alas, it does him ill
and not well. As ALL THE COLORS OF DARKNESS proceeds to its dark
conclusion, a rough if accidental justice is meted out, even as
potential difficulties and mysteries lurk in Banks’s
future.

Robinson, well into his second decade of masterful writing,
treads ever more deeply into the dark psyche of humanity, though he
does so without losing his sensitive touch and occasional droll
humor. As is his wont, he leaves a couple of minor plot points
dangling at the book’s conclusion that undoubtedly will be
resolved or splintered in future volumes. Those familiar with his
work, however, will not require such tantalizing bits as bait to
keep reading.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

All the Colors of Darkness
by Peter Robinson

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061362948
  • ISBN-13: 9780061362941