A bad boy is unreliable, and sometimes he doesn’t show up at all, or if he does, he’s late and moody; he acts mean to you, and he leaves early. He always seems to have another iron in the fire, somewhere else to be…. it’s exquisite agony … He goes to bed with your best friend, and still you forgive him, still you want him.
Thank heavens I was never into bad boys. Because you’ve got two types: the moody, slightly-depressed version and the really, really bad dangerous ones. In Peter Robinson’s newest book, Bad Boy, out Tuesday, August 24, DCI Banks’s daughter, Tracy aka Francesca, has fallen for the latter. Tracy lives with her best friend from childhood, Erin, in a posh part of Leeds. They drink a lot and do a little drugs. Tracy’s career hasn’t taken off as she planned; she didn’t get the best marks in school, and she feels overshadowed by the success of her brother Brian’s band. In short, she’s feeling pretty damn sorry for herself. One night at a club, intoxicated, Tracy kisses Erin’s boyfriend Jaff. Erin and Jaff have a big blowup later that night, and Erin goes to her parents’ house, taking something from Jaff that doesn’t belong to her, something Jaff desperately needs to have in his possession.
Meanwhile, Banks is in absentia. His last case has left him with horrific images; his latest love affair is over; his career is in tatters. He is in California, following in the footsteps of Sam Spade, the fictional detective in The Maltese Falcon. Back at home, Juliet Doyle, Erin’s mother, walks into the station asking to see DCI Banks. DI Annie Cabbot takes her into Banks’s office and draws the situation out of the woman. Apparently, the Doyle family were neighbors to Banks, and Ms. Doyle has come to him for help: Erin has a gun. In the UK, possession of a handgun is a serious offense, and the police begin crawling all over the Doyle’s home as well as the house Erin and Tracy share. Tracy, sensing trouble, runs to Jaff, and the two take off for her father’s cottage in Gratly. Tracy is excited and feels she is on an adventure; however, once Jaff discovers she is the daughter of a DCI, Tracy’s life is in danger.
This book is not a traditional mystery. There’s no major whodunit. We know whodunit; what we don’t know is how it will all end. In this sense, I felt Bad Boy was a turning point in the series as well as in Alan Banks’ life, forcing everything into focus. In the desert, Banks finds a little of what he’s been searching for:
For so long he seemed to have been struggling in the dark, and in that desert night, when the motel’s blinking red neon was nothing but a dot on the horizon, he found an epiphany of a kind. But it was nothing momentous. No road to Damascus, no lightning strike of revelation or enlightenment, as he had hoped for….The epiphany, when it came, was nothing more than a simple fleeting ripple of happiness that went through him as a light cool breeze might brush one’s skin on a hot day….He remembered thinking he was a long, long way from home, but, oddly enough, he didn’t feel so far away at that moment.
When he goes home to find chaos, it seems that moment is what allows him to hold firm. Literally exhausted, he delves into the darkness of the dales to find Jaff, a cold, narcissistic character if I’ve ever seen one. Paced more like a thriller than anything else, Bad Boy is also grittier than any of the Banks mysteries up to this point. It’s messy.
Tracy, who has always been a minor character, comes to the foreground here, but I wasn’t glad about it. She pissed me off royally. I try not to be judgmental, generally, but I’m pretty judgmental about stupidity. Tracy made one stupid move after another, and a lot of it was pretty unbelievable. However, I’ve also never taken drugs, and I am not sure how much that ups the “stupid factor.” When Tracy initially runs to Jaff, I thought, ok. There are several points after that, though, where major sirens would have sounded in my head.
Another troubling aspect of the book was PC Nerys Powell. She’s a newbie to the series. Part of the arms squad, Powell forms an unlikely allegiance to DI Cabbot, and her actions throughout the novel are questioned because she is a known lesbian. The quick (one-way) bond seemed a bit forced and too convenient for some of the later plot developments as did the reemergence of Dirty Dick Burgess. I can handle one rogue figure. Two? I don’t know.
As always, Peter Robinson wrote an enjoyable book, and though I appreciate his attempt to allow the series to mature, I missed his typical writing style, typified by In a Dry Season. With the ending of this book, I am curious as to where Robinson plans on taking Banks and Cabbot and how much longer Banks will keep pounding the pavement. Are you planning on getting this newest addition? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it pre or post reading!
*Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Harper Collins for my first ARC.