Peter Robinson’s 24th Inspector Banks novel, Sleeping in the Ground, is steeped in melancholy, something that is perhaps partially explained by the dedication to author’s father, who died last year. As the book opens, Banks is attending the funeral of his first love, Emily Hargreaves. They had fallen out of touch after Emily broke up with him, but he still has fond memories of their time together, and her death is a reminder of his own mortality: “When your friends and lovers start dying, you begin to feel as if you have only narrowly escaped the reaper yourself, and that it’s only a matter of time. Which, of course, it is.”
Meanwhile, as Banks sits on the train listening to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, all hell is breaking loose back home: a sniper has fired at a wedding party at a local church, killing and injuring several of the guests and members of the party, including the bride. A terrorist attack seems unlikely considering the out-of-the-way location in Yorkshire. The bride was a successful fashion model; could she have attracted a stalker? Or perhaps the killer was just looking for “the most convenient and dramatic way he could find to express his sick needs,” in Banks’ words. The entire Eastvale team begins looking into the backgrounds of the dead and injured, and hunts for clues to the gunman’s identity.
Unlike most Banks novels, which feature a couple of different investigations, Sleeping in the Ground sticks to one, as we follow Banks and the usual suspects, including DI Annie Cabbot, on the killer’s trail. One beloved member of the force is missing, though: DS Winsome Jackman, who happened to be attending the wedding and was injured by a bullet.
One surprising member of the team is Jenny Fuller, a forensic psychologist brought in to help profile the killer. Dr. Fuller appeared in earlier Banks novels, back when he was still married (he has since divorced); there was a mutual attraction between them, but ultimately Banks resisted the temptation to stray. Jenny wound up moving to Australia, but is now back in Yorkshire.
I started reading this book on what would have been the birthday of a good friend who died earlier this year, so I was feeling as reflective as Banks and appreciated the dark and contemplative mood Robinson established. As usual, the Banks novels continue to rank high among my favorite crime-fiction series.