Because the victim of the present-day case is a journalist with an expertise in rock music of the late 60's and early 70's, readers can guess early on that the two murders will prove to be linked. But how? That's what keeps you turning the pages into the night. As the book zips along, it's interesting to watch the two detectives at work — the old-school, rather violent Chadwick, who likes a fast result, no matter how hard won, and the mellower Banks, who doesn't mind mulling things over.
With each book in the series, Robinson hands Banks a case that has some bearing on his ever-changing personal life. In "Final Account" (1994), for example, Banks finds himself drifting away from his wife, now that his two children are growing up, while investigating the suspicious death of a man who has gone to great lengths to avoid an unhappy home life. The latest book's rock 'n' roll backdrop gives the now-divorced Banks a chance to make a connection with his son, Brian. Early in the series he was a boy who played with a train set. Now he's a minor rock star who drops in for a visit toward the start of "Piece of My Heart" and stays until the case is solved. Far from slowing the action, the passages concerning Banks's personal life are narrative sweet spots. Robinson's fans would scream, as would his publisher, but a novel focusing on this detective between murder cases might be interesting.
Banks, an autodidact with working-class roots, is a music lover with aspirations of becoming a man of culture. Music is as much a part of the series's atmosphere as village pubs, muddy fields and glasses of shandy. Usually Banks favors something like Purcell or Satie while driving along the winding country roads, but "Piece of My Heart" calls for a classic rock soundtrack. When we first encounter our protagonist this time around, he's communing with Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."
Robinson also charges himself with the task of inventing a famous rock band that seems somehow connected to the novel's instances of foul play. A fictional band is a dangerous thing in a book, as is a fictional head of state or movie star. Get it wrong and readers wince. But Robinson's Mad Hatters are a persuasive bunch, part Fleetwood Mac and part Pink Floyd, with a hint of the best mock group of all time, Spinal Tap.
The Banks books would seem to fall under the category of police procedural, the genre in which each step in police-department work is methodically laid out until the murderer's death or capture. But whenever forensics, computer analysis or some other technical element comes into play, Robinson writes up a little scene in which Banks has a conversation with a fellow officer who specializes in that area. In a later chapter, the specialist cop pops back into the narrative and reports what he or she has learned in jargon-free language easy for both Banks and the reader to grasp. In Robinson's novels, as in an old-fashioned whodunit, the real work of cracking the case occurs inside the detective's mind. Little by little, he fits the jagged pieces into a satisfying whole.
A murder mystery succeeds when the reader can't guess who did the deed but doesn't feel cheated when the answer is revealed in the final pages. "Piece of My Heart" easily passes this test. Beyond that, Robinson expertly brings his little postage stamp of native soil to life. The minor characters, many of whom carry whole chapters without Banks's help, are varied and convincingly drawn. The author also seems at home in the book's many milieus, which include hippie squats, tidy middle-class cottages, dreary working-class projects and a spooky old manor gone to seed. Chief Inspector Banks remains a flawed but decent man, the type of person encountered in real life commonly enough but rarely seen in fiction. He's good company.Continue reading the main story
For other people named Alan Banks, see Alan Banks (disambiguation).
|First appearance||Gallows View|
|Created by||Peter Robinson|
|Portrayed by||Stephen Tompkinson|
|Title||Detective Inspector, Detective Chief Inspector, Detective Superintendent|
Detective Superintendent Alan Banks (b. 1951) is the fictional protagonist in a series of crime novels by Peter Robinson. Since 2010 several of the novels have been adapted for television under the series title DCI Banks with Stephen Tompkinson in the lead role.
The first novel related to Banks was published in 1987, and carried the blurb: "After once living in London and working as part of the Metropolitan Police Unsolved Crime Squad, Detective Inspector Alan Banks now lives in the fictional English town of Eastvale which is located in Yorkshire north of Ripon near the A1. He has two children, Tracy and Brian, and a doting wife, Sandra. Since moving to Eastvale, Banks now works as the DCI for Eastvale Police, with his own small office, containing a metal desk and two chairs, with the window looking out onto the town's busy Market Square. Coming from working-class stock, DCI Banks abhors anything to do with money and wealth, a driving force behind his decision to move from London to Eastvale. His big goal was to not get caught up in the materialism of the big city, and by moving away, has managed to raise a respected family in a bucolic setting. DCI Banks also has an unique but good taste in music, and often, his charming demeanor helps him to relate to his suspects, as well as victims of crime. He can come down hard, though, when he needs to get answers quickly. But his main strength - he uses creativity in his interrogations and investigations."
Most of the first dozen novels focussed on crimes investigated by Banks. In the 1999 novel, In A Dry Season, Banks and his wife, Sandra, are separated and eventually divorce. The character of Detective Sergeant (subsequently Detective Inspector) Annie Cabbot makes her first appearance as a member of Banks' team. Subsequent novels have a sub-plot about the on-off romance between Banks and Cabbot.
A colleague of Banks from his time in London, Detective Superintendent (later Chief Superintendent) Richard "Dirty Dick" Burgess, is another perennial character who appears in many of the novels. Initially hostile to Banks when they first met, they become good friends over time and have established a natural (if still slightly edgy) rapport by the early 21st century.
A detective inspector during his London period and a detective chief inspector in most of the books, Banks receives a promotion to detective superintendent at the time of "When the Music's Over."
The Banks novels have won and been shortlisted for prestigious awards in crime fiction, including the Arthur Ellis Award, the Anthony Award, and the Edgar Award.
In July 2010, ITV commissioned a television adaptation of the novel Aftermath, with Stephen Tompkinson playing the role of Banks. The adaptation was broadcast as two one-hour episodes, airing on 27 September and 4 October 2010. The viewing figures were successful enough for three more adaptations to be commissioned - the novels Playing With Fire, Friend Of The Devil and Cold Is The Grave - under a series title DCI Banks showing as six one-hour episodes, which started airing on September 16, 2011.