Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson sees Yorkshire's Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks hearken back to the 1970s after a disgraced college lecturer is found dead on an abandoned railway line (available March 25, 2014).
Remember that song about teenage rebellion? No, not that one. (I know you’re thinking about a different one.) Think T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution.” That’s the one that came a year after The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” and fourteen years before Sonic Youth’s “Teen Age Riot.” In other words, it’s the perfect song for Peter Robinson’s DCI Alan Banks in his latest adventure of the same name, the 21st installment of the Yorkshire-set procedural series. As Marc Bolan crows, “you can twist and shout/let it all hang out/but you won’t fool the children of the revolution.” And don’t even think that you’ll fool DCI Banks (who doesn’t drive a Rolls Royce, though it might be good for his voice).
Once again, Banks and his team are confronted with a mysterious body—it’s amazing how the population of the relatively small town of Eastvale is routinely found in various states of deadness—though this one seems at first to be a potential accident. Sure, accidents are great and all, and they produce their fare share of corpses, but Banks is, in the parlance of a gritty city far away, murder police. And we readers like someone to be behind the crimes we read about, not just an unfortunate plunge off a railroad bridge.
The victim, disgraced former college professor and dirt-poor recluse Gavin Miller, seems poised to give Banks and his trusty sidekicks—notably the feisty, I-got-shot-recently-but-so-what? DI Annie Cabbot—a run for their sleuthing money. Not only was the body discovered in a remote area (remember how this guy was a hermit?—they don’t often live in booming metropolises) but he had £5,000 pounds in his pocket. For those of you who don’t have the exchange rates memorized, that’s roughly $8,300. Right away, there’s a red flag. What kind of person who’s already the kind of person who’d kill a guy decides that finders (of large sums of money) aren’t keepers and leaves that sort of cash behind?
The closer Banks and company look into Gavin Miller’s life, the more questions arise. This is, of course, a good thing for readers (who wants to read something where the crime is solved in 5 pages?) and a frustrating thing for Banks, who is drawn in by the sexy older woman, Lady Victoria Chalmers, who shares a tenuous (or is it?) connection to the dead man. Both Miller and Chalmers were at university together in Essex back in the heady 60s and 70s, where they read Marx, smoked pot, and generally thought about radical social change. Don’t forget the title of the song (or the title of this book, though as a music aficionado, Banks would probably urge you to remember the song first).
Despite Gavin Miller’s former leftist leanings, some of the most emotionally complex bits of the plot involve the team’s investigation into the sexual misconduct (how often is there any other kind when it comes to disgraced educators?) kerfuffle that got Miller sacked from his job at the local college. Accused by two young women of inappropriate touching, despite his strenuous denials, Miller was quietly shepherded off the premises nearly four years prior to his death, and by all accounts, never truly recovered. (One wonders if this is possible, and thinks perhaps it would, and perhaps already has, make excellent fodder for another crime novel.) The case isn’t made any easier when the girls in question reveal that the crimes in question might not have happened exactly how they were reported to the college authorities. Annie takes a strong stand against the administration. After so many years living with Annie on the page, this reader never tires of hearing her deliver lines like this, while interviewing a potential suspect:
“Stop pissing us around, Mr. Cooper. Did Gavin Miller maintain his innocence?”
Cooper swallowed and glared at [Annie]. “Always.”
“And did you believe him?”
“He was my friend.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“Does it really matter what happened in the Marabar Caves?”
Annie and Winsome gave one another puzzled looks. “What are you talking about?” Annie said.
“A Passage to India. David Lean or E.M. Forester, depending on your point of view. An Indian man is accused of raping an English girl in a cave. The viewer, or reader, doesn’t really know what happened. It’s the consequences that are important.”
Annie smiled at Winsome. “Well, don’t you just love intellectual show-offs?” She leaned forward and stared hard at Cooper. “We didn’t do that one at school. We did Howard’s End, and I bloody well wished it would. End, that is. The consequences here were that Gavin Miller lost his job, and now he seems to have been murdered, so what went on in his office that day does happen to be important.”
“I told you, the truth is never simple.”
“Bollocks,” said Annie. “It’s only complicated when people like you complicate it with literary allusions.”
Now, everyone who thinks it’s a good idea to keep jerking Annie (and Winsome) about (and impeding a murder inquiry, of course), is a good idea, please raise your hand. No one? Perfect. Banks and Cabbot will get on with the revolutionary business crime solving.
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Jordan Foster grew up in a mystery bookstore in Portland, Oregon. She has a MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia University, which she’s slowly paying off as the managing editor for BookTrib.com and by writing about crime fiction for Publishers Weekly. She’s back in Portland, where it’s nice and rainy and there are endless places to stash bodies. She tweets @jordanfoster13.
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