In WATCHING THE DARK (Hodder & Stoughton, $36.99), Peter Robinson’s 20th novel featuring DCI Alan Banks, he’s still going strong. The first murder is of a fellow cop – killed by a crossbow in the grounds of a police rehabilitation centre. Then a body found in an abandoned Yorkshire farmhouse turns out to be that of a crusading Estonian journalist investigating people-smuggling and labour scams. Banks goes to Estonia, reviving a six-year-old inquiry into the disappearance of a young British woman there. He also has to contend with a glamorous woman from Professional Standards, towards whom he behaves badly – he is only human, after all. Expert characterisation and psychology are among the strengths of this very worthwhile novel.
Zane Lovitt’s MIDNIGHT PROMISE (Text, $37) chronicles the rise and fall of Melbourne private eye John Dorn. It’s actually 10 short stories, but you can just as well read it as an episodic novel. Dorn becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the sleazier side of his work and sometimes even goes against the interests of his clients if the vestiges of his conscience tell him he should. He tries to drown his sorrows, even though his father – who was also a private eye – drank himself to death. He incites criminals to beat him up. Perverse but sometimes quite ingenious, Dorn is an original and intriguing character.
I hadn’t read a Kathy Reichs novel for a long time, so was pleased to discover that BONES ARE FOREVER (Heinemann, $36.99) maintains her early high standard. Forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan finds the remains of new-born babies in an apartment near Montreal and follows a trail that leads north to a mining town on the edge of the Arctic Circle. There, she encounters rednecks and greenies, more bodies and great danger. She also learns about the damage diamond mining can do to the environment. The unusual setting adds an extra dimension to a complex and absorbing crime novel.
Bernard Carpinter was a judge of the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award for the best New Zealand crime novel.