"In the Dark Places" (William Morrow), by Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson's intelligent series about Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks deftly explores contemporary issues that by their nature often take place in the urban areas of Yorkshire, England, with the occasional trip to London. But in his 22nd outing, Banks and his team of first-class detectives take to the Yorkshire countryside to investigate crimes that target farms.
In addition to its solid, multilayered plot, "In the Dark Places" also works as an adroit look at isolation. Farms located miles apart can allow crime to grow undetected and breed a kind of disconnect that comes from living so far from the nearest neighbor. Alan and each member of his team are acutely feeling the emotional emptiness of having few close relationships.
The Homicide and Major Crimes team isn't happy about investigating the theft of a local farmer's tractor. But the new police commissioner wants rural crimes investigated because they involve expensive farm equipment and specialty livestock. John Beddoes' neighbors consider him "a hobby farmer" with his upscale vehicles, a rapeseed crop that supplies a high-end oil maker and free-range pigs and chickens sold to local quality restaurants.
The missing tractor becomes linked to a possible murder when blood is found in an abandoned World War II airport hangar that may be used as a transfer site for stolen equipment. The investigations lead to the disappearance of two young men, one the son of a local farmer, and uncover a gruesome discovery at the crash site and small, illegal slaughterhouses.
The novel's brisk plot is complemented by Robinson's strong characters who continue to intrigue. Alan and Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot both ponder their loneliness, wondering why they so often let friends and lovers drift away. Yorkshire's isolated landscape and the distance between farms add to the detectives' ennui. Only Detective Sergeant Winsome Jackman, long a fan favorite of Robinson's series, seems to be in a good place with a growing attraction to a former veteran who shares her interests.
Robinson continues the high standards he has always brought to his series with "In the Dark Places."