It began with a faceless, maggot-ridden corpse in a tranquil, hidden valley above the village of Swainshead. Or did it really begin with the unsolved murder in the same area over five years earlier? The villagers, especially those who frequent the White Rose, are annoyingly silent. Among the suspects are the Collier brothers, Stephen and Nicholas, from the wealthiest and most powerful family in Swainsdale; John Fletcher, a local farmer; Sam Greenock, owner of the village's best guest house; and his unhappy wife, Katie, who knows more than she realizes. When the Colliers use their influence to slow down the investigation and the others clam up, Inspector Banks heads for Toronto to track down the killer. He soon finds himself in a race against time as events rush towards the shocking conclusion.
A rotting corpse in the Yorkshire Dales brings Chief Inspector Alan Banks to the insular village of Swainshead in the latest of Robinson's ( Gallows View ) justly acclaimed series of procedurals. Aided by a receipt found in the trousers pocket of the murder victim, Banks identifies him as Bernard Allen, a local youth on a visit home from Canada. The investigation leads back five years to the unsolved murder of a PI hunting for a young girl's killer and the nearly simultaneous disappearance of a village woman. Evoking Ruth Rendell's Wexford setting and, like her, posing multiple solutions before the story's closing, Robinson lets Banks do much of his deducing with a pint glass in his hand--here inviting comparisons with Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse. Watching Banks down his beer is the pool of likeliest suspects, including two landowner brothers with sinister pasts, a pretentious B&B owner and his sexually repressed wife. Banks travels to Canada (on the trail of the missing woman) and moves through a maze of passion and possible blackmail before finding the solution in long-kept secrets. Robinson excels in the depiction of character, especially in his portrait of his pleasingly fallible copper. He is steadily ascending toward the pinnacles of crime fiction.