Robinson, Peter. Watching the Dark.

NY: Morrow, 2013.

DCI Alan Banks, originally of London but a resident of the East Yorkshire dales for twenty years now, is a copper’s copper. He can be a nuisance to his superiors and is often a trial to his colleagues, but he’s a first-rate homicide detective who gets results, and the whole county knows it. The story this time opens with the murder (by crossbow yet) of DI Bill Quinn who was undergoing some therapeutic work at a police treatment and recovery center near Eastvale.

There have been rumors about Quinn’s professionalism, so Banks gets landed, much to his annoyance, with DI Joanna Passero of Professional Standards (what Americans would call Internal Affairs). And as the CSI people gather evidence and Banks and his team carry out interviews, he begins to suspect that a centerpiece in the murder was the still unsolved disappearance six years before of nineteen-year-old Rachel Hewitt — a case Quinn regarded as a personal failure even though he had only marginal involvement in it. Rachel had been having a wild weekend with some girlfriends in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia — which strikes me as an odd choice, but maybe that’s where young Brits go for fun in the EU these days.

At the same time, Banks is finding connections to a labor-trafficking ring that imports impoverished young Eastern Europeans and forces them to work in near slave-labor conditions in Yorkshire factories. That side of the investigation turns up another murder, this time of an Estonian journalist. Banks is definitely going to have to make the two-hour trip to Tallinn, dragging Passero behind him.

Also meanwhile, DI Annie Cabot, his longtime assistant, close friend, and ex-lover, is in the last stages of recovery from having been badly shot up in the previous book while protecting Banks’s daughter. Annie is anxious to get back in the saddle before the higher-ups decide she should be medically retired for her own good, so she takes over the illegal immigrant investigation in Yorkshire while Banks is out of the country.

The whole story this time is a straightforward police procedural, and a good one. No good guys getting shot, no family members in danger, just interesting detective work leavened with experience-based hunches and a good dose of luck. The action is mostly cerebral and the bombast is minimal — all of which is very much to my taste. And I suspect we’ll be seeing more of Joanna Passero, who intends to move on from investigating other cops to “real” police work.


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