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'A writer at the very height of his powers' – Ian Rankin
Playing With Fire is the fourteenth novel in Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series, following on from The Summer That Never Was.
In the early hours of a cold January morning, two narrowboats catch fire on a dead-end stretch of the Eastvale canal. When signs of accelerant are found at the scene, DCI Banks and DI Annie Cabbot are summoned. But by the time they arrive, only the smouldering wreckage is left, and human remains have been found on both boats.
The evidence points towards a deliberate attack. But who was the intended victim? Was it Tina, the sixteen-year-old who had been living a drug-fuelled existence with her boyfriend? Or was it Tom, the mysterious, lonely artist?
As Banks makes his enquiries, it appears that a number of people are acting suspiciously: the interfering 'lock-keeper', Tina's cold-hearted stepfather, the wily local art dealer, even Tina's boyfriend . . .
Then the arsonist strikes again, and Banks's powers of investigation are tested to the limit . . .
The Inspector Banks books became the major British ITV drama DCI Banks. Continue the series with Strange Affair.
Edgar winner Robinson's 14th police procedural to feature Yorkshire DCI Alan Banks isn't quite up to the level of last year's superlative Close to Home, but it's nonetheless an engaging pleasure. Three victims have died in two suspicious fires: Tom McMahon, an eccentric, mostly unsuccessful local artist; Tina Aspern, a young heroin addict estranged from an abusive stepfather; and Roland Gardiner, another down-and-out chap but one who just happens to have a fireproof safe containing a substantial amount of cash and what appears to be a Turner watercolor. To solve the crimes, Banks and his team DI Annie Cabbot and the refreshingly direct DC Winsome Jackman pursue good old-fashioned police work, interviewing witnesses, neighbors, relatives and lovers and sifting through the evidence gathered by their specialist colleagues. They also make ample use of contemporary forensic technology. In keeping with the moody and introspective Alan Banks, the narrative style is tempered and deliberate, perhaps too much so for those who prefer, say, the riveting urgency of a Michael Connelly thriller. Characterization is Robinson's real strength. Virtually every character is etched with care, precision and emotional insight. With each book, the quietly competent Alan Banks gets more and more human; like red wine, he gets better and more interesting with age.