“When the Music’s Over” by Peter Robinson

When the Music's OverPeter Robinson is one of my all-time favorites, and when a new book of his arrives, I drop everything to read it. For a while, his books were coming out in the U.S. a few months after they launched in the U.K. (Robinson was born in Yorkshire and his books are set there), but When the Music’s Over was published simultaneously, which I hope means Harper is giving it a bigger push in this country. Robinson’s Inspector Banks series is terrific, and he deserves a larger following on this side of the pond.

That said, When the Music’s Over is a very British book, dealing with issues much in the news there; its events take place pre-Brexit, but racial tensions between the white and “immigrant” communities is a big feature (though it’s noted several times that the Pakistanis in question are all U.K.-born), as is Operation Yewtree, the notorious police investigation into prominent pedophiles that ensnared pop stars like Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris and shocked Britons with its revelations about the once-beloved late media personality Jimmy Savile.

Alan Banks, now Detective Superintendent Banks following a promotion, is tasked with investigating an allegation that TV presenter Danny Caxton raped a 14-year-old girl in the late 1960s. The victim, Linda Palmer, came forward following the Yewtree revelations, but almost 50 years later, Banks doubts justice will be done: “No physical evidence. Dodgy memories. Missing statements… One person’s word against another. What gives us a better chance of making a charge that sticks?”

Meanwhile, DI Annie Cabbot is also investigating a case involving a young teenager: Mimsy Moffat, who was found dead on an isolated road, her battered body showing signs of being gang-raped as well as assaulted. Annie’s search leads her to suspect a group of Pakistani men who were befriending young, neglected girls (Mimsy’s mother struggled with drug addiction) and grooming them for sex work. The police’s press officer tries to dissuade Cabbot, arguing that it would be a “public relations nightmare waiting to happen. We’ll be accused of racism. Worse, of Islamophobia.”

Both cases are potentially explosive, and in one case, a young detective on the Moffat case makes a decision that could put her life as well as her career in jeopardy. As usual, though, Robinson manages to wrap everything up in an extremely satisfying way. When the Music’s Over may be his 23rd Banks novel, but this series still delivers fresh thrills.


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