Monday, August 2, 2010

Check out this bad boy!

I've long been an admirer of the Peter Robinson Inspector Banks series. The stories take place in Yorkshire and concern the music-loving police inspector and his many cases. I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of the latest book in the series, Bad Boy, which will be released in the US on August 24.

As the book opens, Inspector Alan Banks is taking a holiday from his duties at the Eastvale police station. This is a great pity, because a woman arrives asking specifically to speak to Banks. Juliet Doyle is a former neighbor of Banks', and she had a rather delicate matter to discuss with him. Since he's gone, she is persuaded to speak instead with Annie Cabbot, who is a colleague and former lover of Banks. Juliet says that she's found a gun in her daughter's room, and she needs to know what to do about it. This is where it becomes interesting for an American reader to notice the differences between gun laws in the US and the UK. Apparently, just possessing a firearm in the UK means an automatic 5 year prison term. No doubt Juliet was hoping her friend Banks could advise her on how to turn the gun in without getting her daughter into trouble. Annie, however, feels compelled to report the situation to her supervisor. From then on, things go terribly wrong.

Juliet's husband and their daughter Erin are at home, waiting for Juliet and Banks to arrive and deal with the gun situation. Instead, almost an entire police squad descends on the house to confiscate the dangerous weapon. In the course of the confusion, Juliet's husband Patrick is shocked by the police with a taser and subsequently dies in the hospital.

It soon emerges that Erin, the girl with the gun, is sharing a house with two other girls. One girl, Rose, has only just moved in, but the other girl "Francesca" has been Erin's friend since childhood. Francesca turns out to be Banks' daughter, Tracy. Once Tracy hears about the problems at Erin's parents' house, she immediately rushes to tell Erin's boyfriend, Jaff. Jaff is the "bad boy" in the title of the book.

Jaff is the one Erin took the gun from, after a heated argument. After Tracy informs him of the current situation, Jaff tells her they must find a place to lie low until they can leave the country. At first, Tracy thinks this is a marvelously fun idea. She's resentful of her absentee father, and feels like her job working in a bookstore is a disappointment to her parents. She knows her father is out of the country on vacation, so she immediately suggests that they hide out in his isolated country house for a few days. Jaff, extremely paranoid, takes her mobile phone from her "so they can't be traced." She still thinks she's on an adventure until a few days later when she opens Jaff's bag in an attempt to retrieve her phone. She discovers a huge amount of cash, another gun, and what appears to be massive amounts of drugs. At approximately the same time, Jaff, looking through papers in the house, discovers that Tracy is a policeman's daughter. If she wasn't before, Tracy is now officially Jaff's hostage and bargaining chip. As they are getting ready to flee the house to go to London, Annie Cabbot shows up to water the plants.

Banks arrives back in England only to be met with the news of everything that has been happening. He must attempt to track down Jaff before he decides to get rid of Tracy permanently. There is also a major crime boss that Banks suspects of being the source of the guns, but he is unable to prove anything.

I must admit that I haven't read the books in order, or probably even all of the books in the series, so there were things that were mentioned from time to time that were unfamiliar to me. This book also has the recurrent theme of all of the characters (especially Banks) needing to inform the reader what music they are listening to at all times. It's rather funny to be enlightened as to the soundtrack of a hostage situation/car chase.

Final Verdict for Bad Boy: Three Gherkins, for being a page-turning and action-filled episode in the Inspector Banks saga

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