Robinson’s twentieth Chief Inspector Banks novel starts off in an unlikely place: St. Peter’s Police Convalescent Treatment Centre, just north of Eastvale, his stomping grounds. watching-the-dark

Watching the Dark opens with the introduction of DI Lorraine Jensen, recovering from multiple leg fractures, the result of a fall from a second-story tower block chasing drug dealers. Awakened early one morning by the pain her leg, she moves outside to watch the sunrise and wait for her painkillers to kick in.

As she sips her tea she notices a bundle of clothes on the far side of the lake. Using her crutch to get closer, she realizes the bundle is really a very dead man, kneeling forward with his head touching the ground.

When the team arrives and the police surgeon turns the body over, everyone is shocked to see a crossbow bolt sticking out of the man’s chest. A recent widower, DI Bill Quinn was a patient at St. Peter’s for issues with his neck.

When Banks decides to search the victim’s room himself, it appears there is little joy to be found. Quinn’s room sports a series of fishing and gardening magazines and only one book: Practical Homicide Investigation.

The well-practiced team swing into action. Interviews of the twelve resident patients and staff, as well as room searches, are carried out quickly and efficiently. That the Centre pays lip service to security is immediately apparent. The thing left to resolve: was Quinn’s murder revenge from a former convict? Or something more deep and sinister.

Then Banks takes a closer look at the book found in Quinn’s room. Under the endpapers, the detective has secreted a thin envelope containing three photographs of himself and a young woman in compromising positions.

But what do these photos have to do with the man’s murder? And how to they tie in with a dead migrant worker found in an abandoned Yorkshire farmhouse?

Then a cold case appears connected.  19 year-old Rachel Hewitt had disappeared on a hen party in Estonia several years ago and was Quinn’s biggest regret, a case he considered his only failure. Would her case provide the key to unlocking why DI Quinn had to die?

Complicating Banks investigation are two women. DI Annie Cabbot, Banks’ former lover and longtime colleague, due back after six months rehab from a shooting incident, is due to return to work in two days. Will she be up to the task or will her demons prevent her from doing her job?

Then Banks’ ACC throws him a curve ball in the form of a Professional Standards Inspector who is assigned to investigate Quinn’s death alongside Banks. Joanna Passero has her own agenda, and finding out if Quinn was a bent copper is just her surface assignment. She painfully dogs Banks’ steps, hampering his quest.

Robinson moves Banks around to Europe and the change of scenery keeps Banks on his toes and readers turning pages. Not all policemen have the same scruples, he will be quick to learn. But how does that tie in with people trafficking, migrant labor scams, and most importantly, murder?

Fans will be delighted to see Banks in action in this highly readable and compelling new novel from a master at the top of his game.

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