When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson [Review]

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

peterI tend to get a craving for a good mystery in the fall and winter months, when all I want to do is bundle myself in flannel and wool and drown my cold-weather sorrows in tea. It’s all very cozy, but I don’t like cozy mysteries. I like them visceral and shocking and knee-deep in the criminal psychology, or I like to follow a familiar detective around as they solve the latest crime in their own unique way. This book falls into the latter category, though I would argue that Robinson always does a good job of explaining the motivations of his characters.

When the Music’s Over is the 23rd installment in the Inspector Alan Banks series, and picks up with Banks just after he receives his latest promotion. Having to deal more with managing his staff and the politics of policing, he stays involved with a high-profile case involving an aging celebrity accused of rape decades after the crime allegedly occurred. At the same time, we also follow the murder of a young woman who is sexually assaulted, abandoned on the side of the road, and then is murdered shortly after. The cases involve some similar themes, but maintain their distinct story lines and give you a lot of bang for your buck, or intrigue for your page count.

I’ve read a lot of this series, though not every single book, and certainly not in order, but I do get the sense that while Robinson has always been good at developing complicated crimes with complicated motivations, his plots are getting more sophisticated, and are involving themes that are less black and white, and leave things much more up for debate not only between characters within the story, but for the reader. I find them fascinating, and he’s absolutely one of my favourite mystery authors.

That being said, I don’t actually read a lot of mysteries. I started in on them mostly as a professional development/reader’s advisory project, as I was trying to expand my reading horizons and get a feel specifically about what makes detective stories appealing to readers. There’s definitely something satisfying about knowing that the detective will solve the crime at the end of the day, but I’m also curious about stories where this isn’t so much a given. (If you have recommendations, leave a comment!)

So many of the really interesting plot points are developed and revealed over time, so I don’t want to talk too specifically about the nature of the crimes as it would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that Robinson incorporates some timely subject matter and controversial issues that feel very modern. I’m not sure how well the books will stand up because of it, but it makes for some great reading at the time. If I can make a criticism, it’s that I would have liked more character development. Over a long series like this, I know the plot takes center stage and the main detective evolves more slowly, but those were always the best bits for me, and I missed it a little bit in this book.

I hope I can rely on Robinson to continue publishing with some regularity. I like knowing what I’m going to get in a book sometimes, and with him, I know I’m going to like it.