Bad Boy Review
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In Bad Boy, his 19th Inspector Banks novel, author Peter Robinson makes an extremely bold move: he removes his main character from the story, sending him on vacation overseas for nearly half of the book, while his family and friends are in danger at home. For fans of the series, this unusual, character-driven crime drama will make a thoughtful entry in a beloved series. But for newcomers, it’s just more of the same.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks is enjoying a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation while traveling across America, but everything is falling apart back home in Eastvale. One morning, Alan’s old friend and neighbor, Juliet Doyle, arrives at the Eastvale police station, demanding to see him—but, instead, she gets his partner, Annie Cabbot. Reluctantly, Mrs. Doyle explains that she found a loaded gun in her visiting daughter’s bedroom, and she doesn’t know what to do. Annie follows protocol, and the resulting action ends in Mr. Doyle’s accidental death.

Once word of the incident gets out—and the police arrive at Erin Doyle’s flat in Leeds to question her roommates—Tracy Banks (Erin’s roommate and Alan’s daughter) hurries to warn Erin’s dangerously charming boyfriend, Jaff, that the police are looking for him. Caught up in the excitement of the adventure, Tracy offers Alan’s home as a hideout—but she soon discovers that she’s in way over her head.

Bad Boy is really more about the characters than it is about the crime. In fact, the crime drama aspect of the story is rather simple and straightforward. From the beginning—even from the title of the book—it’s pretty clear that Jaff is one bad boy. And readers get a ring-side seat for his latest crimes. Though the story is suspenseful, there aren’t a whole lot of surprises along the way.

The focus of the story, then, is the characters—their pasts, their relationships, their feelings. So if you’ve read Robinson’s Inspector Banks novels before, you’ll be engrossed in the characters’ ongoing stories. You’ll understand their personalities and their motives—and how each character’s past plays into his or her reactions to the situation. You’ll appreciate the frequent references to earlier cases, too.

But Bad Boy isn’t a novel for series newcomers like me. If you aren’t familiar with the characters’ histories—if you haven’t gotten to know and care about them over the course of 19 novels—you’ll have a hard time getting into the story. And, instead of a moving and extremely personal journey, featuring a cast of characters that you love, it’ll feel like just another run-of-the-mill procedural.

So if you’re a fan of the Inspector Banks series, Bad Boy will feel like an emotional reward for the years you’ve spent reading about DCI Banks and the rest of the gang in Eastvale. But if you’re new to the series, it’s best to start somewhere else.

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