The Wrong Hands and Other Stories
By Peter Robinson
There’s no doubt that much has changed during the last nine months and the way we do things, from grocery shopping to visiting the library, can be stressful and not the most enjoyable experience that we’ve been used to having (assuming that one finds grocery shopping an enjoyable experience). In talking to friends and family, and from reading blogs and forums, I’ve come across many who have experienced a profound restlessness that has interfered with one of their greatest pleasures – that of reading. They’re ok to read the gas bill or catch the headlines in the newspaper, but when it comes to sitting down to read a “book” – well they just cannot concentrate for more than a few pages at a time. And I was one of these people, during the first few months of Covid-19. Not being able to read is akin to not being able to breathe for me. So I took to reading short stories – and they filled the need as I waited for my long-term concentration to return. Now I feel like I’ve come out of my cocoon, ready to read almost any book that’s put into my hands.
Robinson’s collection of thirty-one short stories (4 of which are Inspector Banks’ stories) and two novellas (both being Inspector Banks’ stories) might just be the ticket for you if you’re still struggling with problems of concentration. Here you’ll find psychological suspense, police procedurals, family tension, love (lost and found) and an ongoing examination of human nature. Robinson’s characters are colorful, fully-fleshed, and bring these well-told stories to life. There’s something here for every reader and every level of concentration.
Having read these three mysteries, back-to-back, I thought I’d do a comparison of them. Robinson’s latest centers on the discovery of the body of a teenage boy, stuffed into a wheelie bin. A secondary story-line involves Zelda, Annie’s father’s partner, who is a victim of human trafficking. Banks comes across as arrogant, pompous, and acting as a lone wolf as he interviews suspects and reveals details of the cases to the very suspects that he’s investigating. His constant references to musical artists and obscure songs has now become tiresome and boring. The rest of his team are seldom present during this overly-long story. Banks and the other characters have no personality, no individuality, and are wooden and cold.
One would never be able to pick them out of a line-up, having no real sense of what they even look like.
Crombie takes her characters out of London and into the country as Duncan, Gemma, and family are guests at the family estate of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s detective sergeant. But the quiet weekend that they’d all hoped for is not to be when a tragic car accident, followed by a series of mysterious deaths, draws Kincaid and Gemma into the investigation. The complex relationships between the characters are fully explored, giving the reader a true picture of each participant in the story. I felt that I really knew these people and understood their motivations.
Logan McRae has a particularly gruesome case to tackle, in McBride’s fourth installment of this intense series. A legal appeal has released a convicted serial killer back into the community 20 years after his crimes. Now people are going missing again and human meat is being found in butchers’ shops. McRae, along with DI Steele and Insch literally jump off the page as they go about the grisly task of finding the killer, leaving the reader laughing at the gallows-humour and eccentricities of these colorful, well-formed characters. McBride’s ability to bring his characters to life is second-to-none, and even the dead victims have more life than any of the characters in Peter Robinson’s latest.