Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Heard: "The Hanging Valley" by Peter Robinson

Heard: The Hanging Valley by Peter Robinson, 1989, download. James Langton narration.

 I'm working my way through the Inspector Banks series. This one could be subtitled Banks Goes Canada. This fourth one in the series takes a detour by almost completely skipping over Banks's family and home life and the possible romantic relationship with the psychologist.

A visiting hiker to the small village of Swainshead is walking a remote valley. This hanging valley - so called because the valley bottom lies above, and runs into, another valley - holds some unique flowers and a corpse. Banks and Superintendent Gristhorpe travel to the scene, figure it's foul play, and start trying to identify the body. Gristhorpe is interested because a four years ago he was unable to solve a murder in Swainshead. The murders are similar with both bodies found in the woods. A woman went missing at the same time as the first murder.

Banks starts the standard police procedural novel process: he starts asking questions and keeps asking questions. We meet Swainshead's two wealthy brothers, the abused wife of the innkeeper, bar patrons who last saw the dead man. The corpse had serial numbered dental work and Banks tracks the man's identity. The dead man was a Swainshead native who'd been living in Canada for eight years and was visiting.

Corpse told someone that in Canada he'd met the woman who went missing four years ago. Banks travels to Toronto looking for clues. Banks takes in a baseball game. Banks endures hot weather. Banks is traveling on the cheap. Banks drinks beer. Banks visit s expat bars trying to track the missing woman. Banks figures it all out. But, not before someone else is killed.

1. The abused wife is the most interesting character. Robinson really gets into her life, history and thoughts.  Robinson writes from several character's points-of-view and hers is a skewed way of thinking.  After being orphaned as a four-year-old and raised by a religious nut grandmother. She was taught that sex is awful and has learned that life is to be endured. But, her self respect is still strong enough that she sees an escape from her life. Her husband makes her do most the inn's work and smacks her around but her beauty attracts men. Her milquetoast, unassertive self cannot tell those men to stop. She endures two acquaintance rapes thinking that sex is the price a woman pays for dealing with men and getting along in life.
2. Developing characters are Robinson's strength. I was hunting for character names by reading some book reviews and I'm glad I'm not the only one to think that.
3. Bank's observations about Canada versus England and Yorkshire were interesting. The different attitudes to work, travel, drinking, law, etc.
4. Thinking about audiobooks often reminds me of where I was when listening. I most often listen to books when walking. I recall taking the dog on the Glacial Drumlin trail and listening to this.
5. Same narrator as previous books in the series and he speaks the Yorkshire dialogue with that weird, clipped cadence, especially with the letter T.

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