Oh mysteries, how do I love thee? For those that know me, mysteries are my guilty pleasure. When I finished my Master’s degree and accompanying thesis in 2007, I was so sick of theory and academic reading and writing, I could not see straight. Thankfully, my love of reading didn’t abandon me completely but took on the form of what I refer to as quick reads and more specifically, Ian Rankin detective novels. If you’ve never picked them up, I highly recommend his Inspector Rebus series. To me, he is the best of the best. His Inspector Rebus is dark, complex, a bit of a loose cannon, and very, very sexy (in my mind). I read everything he had written in about a 2-3 month time period. Since, I have definitely felt the absence.
Over the Christmas holiday, however, I was sick, the kind of sick where you can barely lift your head off the pillow. Living alone has its advantages, but living alone when sick is awful. Terrible. Soul killing. Yes, my sweet mom offered to take care of me, but how do you send someone to the bookstore to browse for you? I downloaded Kindle for iPhone instead and began to read Peter Robinson. Having read quite a few mysteries in my lifetime, I must say he is the closest to Rankin in terms of character and story.
Typically, Robinson has dual story lines that parallel in some fashion. Often, they are connected as in Rankin’s books. Often, they simply have parallel themes. Wednesday’s Child is one of Robinson’s earlier books.
The story begins with the abduction of a child named Gemma who lives in one of the poorer estates. A couple comes to the door saying they are with social services and takes the child with them. Her mother, Brenda, is slatternly and not very intelligent and lives with a local petty criminal, Les Poole, who seems to know something but has an alibi for the crime. Brenda doesn’t put up a fight when they take her child, and of course the reader wonders why the woman would freely give her child to strangers.
Kidnapping alone is out of the picture as Brenda has no money for ransom. It is unusual for pedophiles to work in pairs, particularly in male/female pairs, so psychologist Jenny Fuller is brought in to profile the case. The investigation moves along with no major leads until a body is found. However, it is not Gemma, and this crime is particularly heinous. In Eastvale, heavy crime is unusual, so the teams are split, and Inspector Banks and Detective Superintendent Gristhorpe, leading each team, seem to hit dead ends. It is not long, though, before the police hit on connections between the two crimes, and Banks and Gristhorpe come face to face with true psychopathy.
Even though this is an early Banks novel, I really enjoyed it. Particularly, I liked Robinson’s willingness to give dimension to characters who, in other author’s novels, may have been written off as poor, unintelligent, criminal, etc. Instead, Robinson fleshes out Les Poole and Brenda, explaining her guilt and simultaneous relief that her child is gone. Brenda never wanted a child, but once Gemma is taken, she realizes she misses certain things about her and understands that she gave her child up so easily because she has neglected her child and feels guilty. Robinson places no judgment on Brenda, though, saying:
“She had a fear of authority, probably bred into her, that meant she would believe just about anything that someone in a suit with a card, a nice haircut and an educated accent told her. She wasn’t unique in that.”
Because he allows her to speak beyond Banks’s first interview with her, the reader is free to sympathize with her instead of demonizing her.
Although not my favorite of Robinson’s because of some lagging in the middle, it was still overall better than much of the other mysteries out there and an entertaining read.