Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Peter Robinson's Piece of My Heart a perfect summer read

68. Piece of My Heart, Peter Robinson. Thriller, 7-23, p. 436

The best of today’s thrillers succeed because the recurring characters are like old friends. We’ve been with them through up and downs, shootings and near death, divorce, marriage, love affairs, problems with their spouse, children and co-workers. This is never more true than with Peter Robinson’s fully realized character, Chief Inspector Alan Banks.

In Playing With Fire, Robinson’s 2004 novel, Banks lost his lovely cottage in the Dales to fire. In the 2005 novel Strange Affair, Banks’ brother was murdered. In Robinson’s most recent work, Piece of My Heart, the most traumatic events confronting the Chief Inspector are mundane in comparison -- a run-in with his new superior and his son and his girl friend move in for an indefinite period of time.

Instead, we have parallel stories –a violent murder of a young woman at a rock concert in 1969 and, almost 40 years later, the bludgeoning death of a young rock journalist – that ultimately converge around a popular, local band that’s achieved international fame, the Mad Hatters.

It’s an ideal story for Robinson. Music has always played a part in his novels. We understand a great deal about Banks through the music he enjoys and his son is the member of a successful rock band. Robinson, along with Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, George Pelecanos and Robert Crais, is one of our best writers in the genre today.

Piece of My Heart is the perfect summer read.

69. Manhattan Noir, ed. Lawrence Block. Short stories, 7-24, p. 257

This is the third book in Akashic Books’ City Noir series that I’ve read. I didn’t like this collection nearly as well as I did D.C. Noir or Baltimore Noir. This was true largely, not because of the stories I liked, and there were several, but because of the stories I didn’t like. In particular, I didn’t think the story, The Organ Grinder, by the husband and wife team, Maan Meyers, really belonged in this collection.

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