Abattoir Blues ~ Peter Robinson

51lKGyzeImL._1I came rather late to the Peter Robinson party, which I think was probably something of an advantage.  Having gone back and read the earlier books it’s very clear that as his DCI Banks novels have progressed he has made great strides in both his characterisation and his plotting, so much so that Stephen King’s puff on the back of his latest,  Abattoir Blues, claiming that the series is the best…on the market, doesn’t seem substantially overblown.

Set, as most of the novels are, in the Yorkshire Dales, this latest instalment sees Banks and his Inspector, Annie Cabot, in pursuit of a gang of thieves involved in a rather more sophisticated form of rustling than that which we associate with farming tales of earlier years. While animals are vanishing, the more substantial items on the missing list are farm vehicles valued in at least five figures, which are being whisked off to destinations in Eastern Europe.  The latest of these is a tractor belonging to incomer John Beddoes and shall we say that he is not best pleased.

When Michael Lane, the son of a nearby farmer, goes missing it is inevitable that he becomes a prime suspect in the robbery, especially as there is a history of bad blood between him and Beddoes.  However, the discovery in a deserted building of evidence that points to a murder, alongside indications of some sort of large machinery having been stored there, raises questions as to whether or not Lane has been involved in much more than theft and despite the protestations of his girl friend that he would not have been associated with anything illegal, an all out manhunt begins.

Like a good number of crime novels at the moment, one of the questions this book raises is whether or not there are people involved in illegality who are so high up in the echelons of society as to be untouchable by the law.  There are certainly a good many who think that is the case and I’ve read several novels this year that take the line that this is now how the world works.  I won’t spoil the conclusion of this particular story for you, but simply say that it was more satisfactory than certain others, some of which have left me spitting feathers and despairing of a justice system seen as hidebound by the greed of people in power.

One characteristic of Robinson’s novels that I really appreciate is that he offers me a complete experience with each book.  While there is the on-going story of Alan Banks’ private life and the slow development of the characters that surround him, the core of each narrative is the specific crime that he and his team have been called upon to investigate and there is rarely any sense of being left in limbo having to wait a year for the next book to see how a particular storyline is going to play out.  I can’t say that it doesn’t ever happen – I’ve just remembered being left uncertain as to whether or not Annie Cabot would recover from a shooting incident – but it is rare.  It isn’t that I think a secondary on-going crime narrative can’t be made to work, but if it takes over from the primary case without being resolved then the novel becomes unbalanced.  It takes a really good writer to bring it off.*   There is no such problem with Robinson, although, ironically, perhaps he has the skills to make it work.

So, while I will have to wait a year to see if Winsome’s love story is going to have a happy ending (I do hope so!) I do know what happened to John Beddoes’ tractor, have discovered whether or not Michael Lane lived up to his girlfriend’s confidence in him and have seen at least some of the baddies get the comeuppance they deserved.  All in all a satisfactory couple of days reading.

*The best example I’ve come across recently has been Jane Casey in The Kill in which she brings her on-going story to the fore and makes it the central crime, thus eliminating any possible narrative conflict.

17 thoughts on “Abattoir Blues ~ Peter Robinson

    1. Now I haven’t been able to watch the television series because they have cast Banks so far from my image of him. But, I think you’re probably right. I can’t see these as being your sort of book.

  1. I had a go at these novels some time back and wasn’t impressed enough to want more. But if as you say they have matured, perhaps it’s time to give them another chance.

    1. I like the Banks novels too. I wonder how you think he ranks in the crime pantheon compared with Rebus, Morse etc.etc?

      1. Now that’s an interesting question, Ian. Stephen King may think he’s the best on the market but I’m not sure I would go that far. I certainly wouldn’t miss a new instalment, but if I had to read one out of him or Rankin it would definitely be Rankin I would go for.

    2. There are a couple that take him down to London in relation to his brother, Harriet and they seemed to be something of a turning point. If you didn’t get that far in the series it might be worth going back.

    1. Countryside crime is really big business these days, I know. Some of Robinson’s novels take the reader up onto the Yorkshire coast as well and having family there I know the criminal fraternity don’t leave holiday resorts alone either.

  2. I’m too far behind with too many series to even consider whether I should try this one. But I’m please to read positive words about ‘The Kill’ because it’s on my library pile, and when I read it I’ll be up to date with Jane Casey.

    1. I think Casey gets better with every book, Jane, and ‘The Kill’ is a masterful piece of plotting drawing from the last two books in the series to bring a type of conclusion to their sub-plots.

  3. I’ve wilfully turned my back on these for no other reason that he is so popular that I can’t imagine the books would be any good (mind you I am also basing it on my disappointing experience with some other crime series). Re Rankin, how would you rate him against say Ruth Rendell or PD James?

    1. I’ve found it interesting to try and compare these writers in my mind because when I do so I realise how different they all are in tone. I would say that Robertson falls somewhere between the Wexford novels and the Rebus books and comes nowhere near Dalgliesh – as far as tone is concerned, that is. In terms of writing styles it’s even more difficult partly because I don’t like Rendell’s style and partly because I think the later James is very weak compared with the earlier books.

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