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Gallows View

by Peter Robinson (Viking, 1987)

Gallows View is the opening novel in Peter Robinson’s Chief Inspector Banks mysteries, an award-winning series narrating the adventures of a Yorkshire-based CID officer. Alan Banks decides to move north with his family, leaving behind the stressful mean streets of London, expecting to soothe his nerves at the idyllic town of Eastvale in the Swainsdale valley of the Yorkshire Dales.

The melancholy moorlands, the sweep of the green valleys and meadows, criss-crossed with drystone walls and dotted with sheep, meandering becks and lonely roads—it was a view that routinely made Yorkshireman James Herriot, local vet and best-seling author, stand and stare. But if Banks sought peace, what he unearthed was far from it.

When an old woman is found dead in her home in Gallows View, the foremost question is Banks’s mind is: is it murder? Digging deeper into her solitary existence, clues are hard to come by, and Banks, having come to accept the slower pace of life in the country town, begins to feel tugs of frustration.

Does her death have anything to do with the pair of glue-sniffing robbers who are breaking into homes in the countryside? And what about the peeping Tom that has Eastvale’s women on edge? Banks, just six months into his new job and having worked hard to find acceptance in the community, finds himself the target of the fury of the local feminist lobby for not taking more drastic measures to catch the peeper.

Long before the swirling mists of the cases begin to settle, Banks has many uncomfortable questions to answer. Not the least of which involves dealing with his growing attraction to psychologist Jenny Fuller, called in to help with the peeping Tom case. And when Banks’s wife Sandra is one of the victims of the peeper, he has a difficult choice to make between the personal and the professional.

While Peter Robinson’s plots and characterizations appear not as deep as those of Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin (of Inspector Rebus fame) or Reginald Hill, he is is wholly entertaining and gripping. The only long-standing rankling element is how most of the major characters&dmash;starting with Banks and his wiry good looks, dark hair and scar over one eye—are so very attractive. In the midst of all this, though, Sergeant Jim Hatchley, large and coarse, almost comes as a welcome relief.

If you’re on the lookout for a good crime novel, you could do far worse than pick this one up. If you like it, there are more than twenty others after it.

RATING: 7/10