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Author Topic: "In A Dry Season" by Peter Robinson  (Read 18861 times)
Mark
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« on: November 28, 2007 »

Though Canadians try to claim him as one of their, Peter Robinson is a Yorkshireman whose first Alan Banks novel "Gallows View" appeared in 1987 (coincidentally, the same year that the first Rebus novel was published). Since then, Banks has grown and developed over a further fifteen novels into one of the most rounded and consistently interesting characters in modern crime fiction.

"In A Dry Season" (1999) was the tenth novel in the series and is widely regarded as one of its major highlights. It won the Anthonny award for best novel as well as being nominated for the Edgar, the Macavity and Arthur Ellis awards. Acclaim was not just limited to the UK and US however, and the book went on to win France's Grand Prix de Literature Policiere as well as Sweden's Martin Beck award.

The New York Times said: "Storytellers are always digging up the past, but few bring to that melancholy task the exquisite delicacy achieved by Peter Robinson in his new police procedural."

For those already familiar with the Banks novels, I hope you've enjoyed revisiting this one and for anyone who has not come across Banks before, there could be no finer place to start. I happen to know that this is one of Peter's own favourites and he will of course be dropping in to see what you've all made of it.

I'm looking forward to this discussion immensely...

Mark
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norby
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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2007 »

Well, I'll start off with a few comments anyway.

Some of you may remember (and I'll brag here a bit) that I've been singing the praises of Peter Robinson for a long time now.  I don't really remember when I started reading the Banks series, I just know that it was in the last thirteen years.

I didn't recall exactly the story of In A Dry Season, but so far I hadn't been disappointed by any of the books so I was looking forward to re-reading it, and hearing what everyone else thought.  What I really, really like about the Banks novels is how the characters are developed, especially Banks, Hatchley, and the supporting characters-that's what I look forward to with each book.

I was also excited to see that this was a book that goes back and forth between the present and the past.  It's something I enjoy in books as long as it's done well, and I think you have to agree it was done very well.  Not remembering the ending of course, made it even more enjoyable.

The personal issues Banks was having with his wife (separation/divorce, etc...) hit a little close to home for me, and caused some painful moments.  There was one point where I teared up and really felt I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep reading.  But, a night's sleep and my emotional moment was over-I think if anything it just shows the talent of the writing.

Altogether, a great book.  Smiley
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dali
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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2007 »

I only discovered Peter Robinson a year ago and started with a later book in the series and then worked forwards from the beginning.

'In a Dry Season' is my personal favourite and IMHO, the best in the Inspector Banks series so far.

I really enjoyed the two story aspect of this novel especially because the past in this story is still very connected to our present and one we can still relate to.  This was more than just a detective fiction novel, it also worked as a modern history tale but without being boring, stuffy or even academic.

I agree with Norby about how the characters develop over the series.  They are realistic portrayals and some stay and some go but it's great to spend time with them nevertheless.

I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it as a great starting point for anyone new to the Banks series but one which I shall probably reread again and again.

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« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2007 »

I really, really loved this book - couldn't put it down. For me, it succeeded on so many levels.

I'm quite a new convert to the lovely Mr. R - as I've said before, I can't imagine how I've missed him.

IADS interweaves seamlessly between the present investigation and the past crime, and each part could almost have been read independently. I found the hsitorical content fascinating, and the investigation compelling, and the characterisation absolutely brilliant. I find it hard to really engage in a book if the characters mean nothing to me, here, I was completely immersed in the lives of all of them. The accounts of wartime Yorkshire and the relationships between Gloria, Gwen and Michael, and all their American airmen bring the era completely to life.

This book dwelt on the personal lives of the characters as well as the police investigation. Sometimes I find too much personal information can interfere with my enjoyment of a book (if I wanted to read romance novels, I'd buy them!) but the relationship between Banks and Annie was so sensitively written, taking account of both their pasts, that it actually added to the book.

I genuinely felt for Gwen, nothing in her experience had prepared her for her glamorous, spirited, reckless sister in law. She was torn between her protectiveness towards her brother and her attraction towards her dazzling sister in law.

Mr. R's language manages to be both spare and lyrical - a beautifully written book, and a complete gem. I'm not remotely surprised to hear it won all those awards.

I'm very much looking forward to reading the other Bank's novels.
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ChrisH
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« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2007 »

I'll have to read this Banks novel. I've read 3 so far, plus Peter's short story collection and did enjoy them, but In a Dry Season wasn't one of those 3.

I've still yet to read DEATH MESSAGE (a delayed pleasure - saving it!) but that's only because it's a hardback and awkward to lug around on the train/read in the bath, etc (I'm not a big fan of hardbacks) when a paperback is such an easier option. Currently halfway through Kernick's RELENTLESS, so I think DM after that - I've delayed long enough - and then possibly IADS after that, although I do have quite a TBR pile, especially with being occupied with NaNo for the last month...
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Sonia J
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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2007 »

Shamefully I have never read any Peter Robinson and just from reading the blurb on the back cover I wouldn't have brought this book home, I am so glad I did.Yet another revelation from the Billingham book club.

I found it a very gentle read,I didn't really become attached to any of the characters,in fact I found some of them distasteful (Vivien for one) but I did want to know about them and what would become of them.The flashbacks were superb! My mother was a girl of 12 in 1944, growing up in a small village with Yanks stationed on the common and my father,sixteen years her senior was in the RAF so I have been told many a story of what it was like. Tales of Woolton pie,powdered eggs and gravy browning on the legs and of course the opinions of the Yanks from both sides of the coin. (My father being a teetotaller thought they drank too much and my mother being only young was smitten with their bubble gum and tins of jam). Both my parents have passed away,my mother just two months ago, so maybe the timing of me reading this book added to my enjoyment as it was like sitting down with them and being told stories of the war like we did when I was younger.Having said that the book was so beautifully written,so evocative of the time that I believe I would of enjoyed it whenever I read it,regardless of prior knowledge.

I found it easy to take a guess at who murdered Gloria but knowing only improved my enjoyment,the who almost didn't matter,the why was the question I needed an answer for. The revelation concerning Vivien at the end of the book was masterful.I felt vindicated in never liking her,even in our escapism we like to be proved right!

I have had to search my mind hard for a criticism and I have only one.As I said before I didn't become attached to any of the characters,didn't even particularly like any of them although I did start to warm to Annie none of them seemed to have much goodness in them if you know what I mean. I found them hard nosed and insular which was hard for me because I always like to see the good in people.Maybe the characterisations were more true to life than I want to admit? If that is the case the fault lies with me and not the author.
A very enjoyable read.
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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2007 »

This was the first Inspector Banks novel I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I agree it is a gentle read but I felt this was appropriate because the challenging situations the characters found themselves in were harrowing enough. Unlike Sonia I found myself sympathising with the characters. Gloria foregoing happiness to stand by her husband, Gwen protecting her brother, Matthew simply shattered by the war.
I could also identify with the situation Banks and Annie found themselves in - particularly where a potential perfect Sunday is wrecked by the fleeting entrance of an ex partner - really well observed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story and barely noticed the detecting going on - testament to the power of the characters and the reality of their emotions and dialogue.
I will certainly be picking off the Banks novels over the next few years. 15 to go - I'll know him better than I know Thorne!
Great choice Mark and well done Peter.
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Sonia J
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2007 »

Reading my post back it could sound like my lack of empathy toward the characters spoiled my enjoyment,not the case! I will be reading more Peter Robinson.
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ChrisH
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« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2007 »

Helena,
LOL Smiley Don't be hard on yourself. We get the gist. Short and sweet is often the best way.

Well, I went into town today but they didn't have IADS in ANY bookshop, not even Waterstones or the library. Nearly every one of his other books but not that one. Isn't that just Sod's Law?! Actually, I tell a lie: they did have the audio book in The Works, but I'd rather read the novel in the first instance.

So instead I consoled myself with Hutson's UNMARKED GRAVES from the library... before the utter chaos that is "late night shopping" descended and I started to come over all agoraphobic!!...
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Mary
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« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2007 »

I'm a big fan of the Inspector Banks series - he was one of my early discoveries (recommended by Sandra) when I'd worked my way through Rebus .

Loved IADS - as others have said, the switch between past and present is very smooth, and is one of the things which makes this book stand out, which is quite an achievement considering the quality of the whole series.

Strangely, it's only in the more recent books that I've started to warm to Alan Banks - although I've always enjoyed his character.  I've never really taken to Annie - but again, a very well written character.  I think that maybe I've got an issue with the fact that Banks always seems to pull younger women (don't you just hate it when men do that!)  Grin

Another good choice Mark.
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Max Vaxine
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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2007 »

Aw Mary...be happy for them. Did I tell you the new Mrs V is 12 years my junior
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norby
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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2007 »

Mr. Norby was 14 years older than me-the age difference wasn't what split us up. 

Have to confess, I prefer the older fellas.  Wink
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Max Vaxine
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« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2007 »

How you doin'? ala Joey from Friends
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norby
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« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2007 »

How you doin'? ala Joey from Friendjavascript:void(0);
Cheesys

Max you cutie, you're six years younger than the stb former Mr. Norby!   Wink Cheesy  Kiss

I'm sure you can ask our guest about sausages H, but now that he's lived in Canada so long, he's probably a fan of the superior Wisconsin brats-more flavor, more snap-damn, ever since smudge brought up the stupid things I've been wanting one.  Just one, but you have to buy a whole package.  Grrrrr.
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Linda L
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« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2007 »

As is usually the case with a series I start somewhere in the middle, then if I like the author read any other book I can find.  So for Peter R the first book I read was Cold is the Grave, which is the follow on from IADS.  Then I read the Summer that Never Was, which is about Banks lost friend.  The last book I had read was Piece of my Heart.  So when I read IADS I felt comfortable with the characters and little snippets mentioned I knew were going to be covered in later books.  Most of the books I have read have the parallel investigation going on, and this is done so well that you get a real sense of events in both time frames.  I found IADS a vivid read and Banks a likable character....will he ever get the girl  Huh Once again, the slightly flawed detective is appealing to the readers and I find the books fit in with fans of Rankin, Harvey, Billingham etc.
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