Saturday, 31 August 2013

A Little Bit of Toronto Visits Liverpool. . .

Some days it doesn't take much for me to feel a pang of homesickness. The smell of doughnuts.  Hearing a Michael Buble or Leonard Cohen song on the radio. The latest baseball scores running along the bottom of the SkySports channel. And then a few weeks ago, I was passing the Waterstones in Liverpool One and saw this:

Of course I had to go. Though Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks books are set in Yorkshire, he's lived for years in Toronto. I used to work for his Canadian publisher and have met him several times. I was once lucky enough to drive him to a library conference from Edmonton to Jasper (he was a delightful passenger). He's now moved to Richmond and promises that a lot more day to day English realisms will creep into his novels. (I think he's done a fine job so far as it is).  I've now just finished his latest book, Children of the Revolution and it was a treat to read.

Banks is called on to investigate the murder of Gavin Miller, a disgraced university lecturer, now fallen on bad times and although the same age as Banks, looking much older. He's strangely drawn to the victim (they liked the same 60s and early 70s music, and had a similar taste in films) and Banks is insistent that the past has something to do with the motive. But which past?  Four years ago when Miller was dismissed from his job for sexual misconduct with two students?  Or forty years ago when Miller was himself a student at the University of Essex at the same time as Ronnie Bellamy (now Lady Veronica Chalmers, living in the same Yorkshire town) who was active in the student Marxist movement during the miner's strike and is now behaving rather strangely about a telephone call she received from Miller just a week before his death?  In the present, Banks also has to deal with petty jealousies and resentments among his colleagues, and a warning from high up to stay away from the Chalmers family, who have important political connections. There was an interesting mix of characters in this mystery and a good demonstration of how meticulous and tedious detection can be the key to solving a case.

I'm also grateful that Robinson added Liverpool to his tour; despite this being a very literary city, so many of the big authors skip it and go to Manchester instead. It was nice to say hello (he remembered me) and hear him talk about both the book and the television series (which I haven't yet seen). And despite the distance (geographical and no doubt in time, reflective) between him and his former city, no, he doesn't have any plans to set a future novel in Toronto.

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