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Gallows View

Peter Robinson

The first in the long-running Inspector Alan Banks series. British police procedurals of the highest order. 


London policeman Alan Banks relocates to Eastvale village in Yorkshire for peace. But a brazen Peeping Tom spies on attractive ladies at night. When an elderly woman is brutally slain in her home, Chief Inspector Banks wonders if the voyeur has intensified. Perverse and murderous acts affect Banks's personal life, forcing hard choices he hoped never to make.

DCI Alan Banks and his wife Sandra have recently moved from London to the Yorkshire town of Eastvale with their children Tracy and Brian. All of them are hoping that the change from Banks’ fast-paced and stressful job in London to the slower pace of Yorkshire will be good for the family. After all, how much crime can be there be in Yorkshire? The Banks family settles in reasonably well; Sandra gets involved with a local Camera Club, and the children get involved in school activities and clubs. They haven’t been there long, though, when a voyeur begins to make life miserable for several women in the area.

Superintendent Gristhorpe is concerned that the peeping may escalate to something worse. Besides, public opinion, especially that of local militant feminist Dorothy Wycombe, has made it politically necessary to catch the culprit as soon as possible. So Banks and the team are asked to work with psychologist Dr. Jenny Fuller to find out who’s responsible for the peeping incidents.

As if that’s not enough, there have also been several break-ins lately. Those break-ins are put down to the work of teens looking for money and drugs, and they’re escalating, too. Matters come to a head one night when Alice Matlock, an elderly local resident, is killed. At first, it looks as though she was murdered by the same people responsible for the break-ins. But Banks begins to wonder about that since some aspects of the murder scene are different from the break-ins. Now, Banks and his team have to solve the murder as well as the series of break-ins and find out who the voyeuer is before the peeping escalates. As they look into the crimes, they also look into the private lives of several of Eastvale’s residents, and we learn about the interesting, quirky and sometimes dark people who live there.

Several elements are intertwined throughout this novel. One of them is Banks’ status as an outsider in Yorkshire. He and his family are from London, and it’s clear that they are regarded differently by the locals. Here, for instance is the opinion of local teenager Trevor Sharp: “There was that hotshot copper from London, Banks, who'd got his picture in the local paper when he'd got the job a few months back” Sandra, too, has had a period of adjustment: “In London, Sandra had never been short of lively company, but in the North the people had seemed cold and distant until Harriet came along, with her pixieish features, her slight frame and her deep sense of compassion. Sandra wasn't going to let her go.” We see the cultural differences between Banks and his second-in-command, Sergeant Hatchley, as they investigate the cases. For example, when Hatchley is interviewing one of the victims of the peeper, he makes a few undiplomatic remarks about the peeping and gets into trouble for it. Banks is told to reprimand him and do whatever it takes to settle the matter. He interviews Hatchley about it and we can see during the interview that the two men have very different views.

Another element that we see in Gallows View is the issue of women’s rights and responsibilities.

Also woven into this story is the small-town setting. The crimes take place in and around Eastvale, so we learn quite a bit about the residents and their lives. We also get a strong picture of the changes in small-town lives that technology and other postwar developments have brought.

Gallows View is a police procedural. So we see the long hours, the tedious and sometimes unpleasant tasks, and the stress that is police work. Readers follow along as Banks and his team find clues, put pieces of evidence together, interview people and solve the crimes. Banks is no superhero, nor do these cases get solved by magic. They are solved by the efforts of a disparate team of people who work together and come to respect each other’s skills.

Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Writer

About Peter Robinson:

Peter Robinson was born in Yorkshire, England, the setting for most of his novels.

After getting his BA Honours Degree in English Literature at the University of Leeds, he came to Canada and took his MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, with Joyce Carol Oates as his tutor, then a PhD in English at York University. He has taught at a number of Toronto community colleges and universities and served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Windsor, 1992-93.

He lives in Yorkshire and Canada. 

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