Many Rivers to Cross by Peter Robinson – Review
By Sandra Callard
Peter Robinson, the author of one of the best series of crime novels to hit the shelves this millennium, has produced his 28th crime novel featuring the likeable and cleverly assiduous head of police, Detective Superintendent Inspector Alan Banks. Based in the Yorkshire Dales, Robinson’s stories are anything but rural, and this latest, Many Rivers to Cross, is a meaty, dark and rugged tale that covers the leafy lanes of the Dales and the depraved lawlessness of Albanian white slavers and their savage cruelties.
Many Rivers to Cross is the second in a trilogy by Robinson, the first being Careless Love, published in 2018 and also involving white slavery and drug barons. The third and final book will be published next year and presumably will deal with the same subject matter. This trilogy marks a departure by Robinson from his previous style of more home-spun books which are set primarily in the Yorkshire Dales and his home city of Leeds. These two books, and presumably the third, are crime books that in no way are who-dunnits. Banks knows who the guilty parties are and what they have done, but his problem is to track them down and obtain justice, particularly as his own daughter has become entangled in the dark world of drugs and crime in this latest book.
Whilst Banks is a first class detective, his particular forte is picking up on anomalies in his interviews with suspects. He can see links that others miss, and this will often give him the break needed to crack a case. He is a supremely adroit detective with a pleasing normality that engenders respect and familiarity.
“Brutal and pitiless”
I have read every one of Robinson’s previous Inspector Banks books, partly because they are cracking stories in themselves and partly because the huge amount of meticulous research and details of police procedure, and indeed of criminal procedure, makes the stories and the situations come alive. To read the books is to live them and believe them, however unsavoury the details are, and hope that Banks can produce elucidation and pay-back.
As a fan of the crime novel, I hold my hands up to being a true who-dunnit fan. I still love the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, and the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Ngaio Marsh, but my admiration for the genre covers writings over the past hundred years and some of the modern writers of crime are spectacularly good, Peter Robinson being amongst them.
Many Rivers to Cross is an ultra-modern novel. It covers subjects that are brutal and pitiless, and probably not in the experience of a high percentage of its readers, but are very relevant to today’s world and perhaps always have been. Robinson’s subject matter for his trilogy is easy to regard as being a million miles from our experience, but nevertheless it exists, and it should not exist. Robinson’s exposure in a detective book primarily meant to be read for pleasure is a brave move, but works brilliantly well. We have the horror of being involved in the loathing and bestiality of the crimes, and the joy and satisfaction when at least some of them are cornered and their reign of terror has ended. We pay homage to Banks and to Robinson for having pulled this off, and we sleep easier. I look forward to the final book in this brilliant trilogy.
‘Many Rivers to Cross’ by Peter Robinson is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £19.99 hardback