Friend of the Devil

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Friend of the Devil.jpg

Typical, really. Having watched the DCI Banks episode based on Playing With Fire I figured I’d read Friend of the Devil before watching the adaption, and found I probably needed to read two more Robinson titles, one of which appeared at the time to be a non-Banks title.

This, of course, comes after putting the reread them all in order (I’d only covered the first title, so it wasn’t as if that had progressed too far) project on hold while I watched the adaptions. Having recently read (or having your review available to consult) Aftermath (five titles earlier in the Banks sequence) and Caedmon’s Song (the non-Banks title that goes back well before the two Banks titles) probably isn’t totally necessary, but since the two stories link into what’s going on here it’d help keep things tidy.

The link to Aftermath, #12 in the series (this is # 17) is pretty clear from very early in the piece since Karen Drew, the quadriplegic victim found on an isolated cliff near Whitby still sitting in a wheelchair with her throat slit turns out to be Lucy Payne, the partner in crime of Terrence Payne, the perpetrator of a series of sadistic crimes committed against girls lured to what was later dubbed The House of Payne. He died of injuries inflicted in the process of apprehending him, while Lucy jumped through a window and damaged her spine while trying to escape arrest.

Until the previous identity is revealed there’s nothing obvious about Karen’s past that would explain the murder because, basically, when Annie Cabbot starts digging around looking for a motive, there isn’t much of a past. The cover story has Karen Drew left in the wheelchair as the result of a car crash, and it’s the search for motives for her murder that leads Annie to the firm of lawyers who looked after her affairs and provided the cover story.

Explaining away a quadriplegic’s background would seem to be a fairly straightforward affair if the person you’re doing it for is unable to communicate or do anything to blow the cover story, but someone seems to have let the cat out of the bag. That breach of security, wherever it was, has allowed an alleged acquaintance called Mary to sign Karen/Lucy out the nursing home and do away with her, leaving the body to be found by some innocent passer by.

DI Annie Cabbot has been temporarily seconded to Eastern Area Headquarters, and seems, on the surface at least, to be in severe danger of unravelling completely.  The phone call that alerts her to the murder finds her waking in a strange bed after a one-night stand with a much younger man and she’s self-medicating like it’s going out of style almost throughout the investigation.

And the same Mothers' Day morning Chief Inspector Alan Banks, with his only scheduled commitment being the obligatory call to Mum has his leisurely morning interrupted by a phone call from Detective Inspector Kevin Templeton reporting the discovery of a scantily clad nineteen-year-old girl’s body in The Maze, a complex tangle of narrow cobbled alleyways behind the market square in Eastvale, right across the Market Square from the Eastvale police station. 

Eastvale College student Hayley Daniels may have been attractive, with any number of admirers, but she’s also inclined towards outrageous behaviour, which means she’s not going to wait till her friends arrive at the next location before voiding the bladder after a group of yobs trashed the toilets at The Fountain. After giving the bartender a mouthful she departs, along with the rest of her party, announces she’s going to relieve herself in the warren of alleys. Her partly clad body is found in the storeroom of a leather goods shop when the proprietor opens it in search of offcuts the next morning and Banks finds himself looking at rape and murder on an alcohol-fuelled Saturday nigh with any number of suspects, from the crowd she’d been partying with, through older men who had ogled her at the pub (including the one who found the body) to a lecturer at the college. 


© Ian Hughes 2012