Alan Banks, Peter Robinson's pragmatic and likable Yorkshire detective turns a fictional 30 next year, having made his debut in Gallows View in 1987, coincidentally the same year that John Rebus first appeared in Knots and Crosses. But while the irascible Rebus is the maverick who never grew up, retiring as a Detective Inspector, Banks has made it into the corridors of power, having been promoted to Superintendent.
When the Music's Over is the 23rd novel in a series that has managed to maintain its freshness throughout - a notable achievement. And this novel is a fine illustration of how Robinson has managed this as it's a contemporary novel, dealing with complex modern themes.
The newly promoted Banks is handed the poisoned chalice of an investigation into allegations of a decades-old rape directed at an aging local celebrity - a clear echo of the Operation Yewtree investigation into allegations of historic sexual abuse. In parallel, Banks' subordinates launch an investigation the rape and murder of a young woman that quickly drags them into the highly sensitive and politicized realm of grooming by men of Pakistani descent (similar to the highly documented Rotherham case).
These cases offer the perfect test for a senior copper in a new role, testing Banks' leadership and political skills as well as his detecting ability.
The book highlights the best of Robinson: smart story-telling, intelligent analysis of societal issues and believable characters - on both sides of the thin blue line. The latter has long been one of the strengths of the series, and one of the sources of its longevity. Robinson has added strong female leads (Winsome Jackman and Annie Cabbot) around Banks who are capable of carrying the books on their own and allow different perspectives to be explored - something that works well in this particular case, with Cabbot leading the murder enquiry and Jackman riding shot gun on the 'Yewtree' case. Banks has also long had some of the more reasonable senior officers in crime fiction to report to although here an over-zealous press officer occupies the irritant-in-chief role.
This is another high quality outing in a consistent and enjoyable series. Let's hope it's a few years yet before Banks follows his Scottish colleague into retirement.
Reviews of previous Banks novels:
Piece of my Heart (2006)
Bad Boy (2010)