The Hanging Valley

The Hanging Valley - Peter Robinson [These notes were made in 1992:]. Less psychologically serious than Past Reason Hated (though it certainly starts with a gruesome enough corpse), this must have been a real romp to write, most especially the Toronto chapters. You see, the first clue that Inspector Banks & his team turn up to the identity of the mangled corpse is a cash register receipt from the Wendy's at Yonge & Dundas! Before he goes haring off after Bernie Allen's Toronto connections, however, Chief Inspector Banks tracks down his local ones in Yorkshire, and it turns out he's a local boy, and his death may be related to an unsolved one in the same village 5 years ago, together with the concurrent disappearance of a young woman. The 'usual suspects' in this case are: the two Collier brothers, Nicholas and Stephen, who are the local gentry, and have Oxford in their past; John Fletcher, a local farmer with ties to the Colliers; Sam Greenock, the guest-house keeper, social climber & wife-beater, & Katie, his wife, attractive & sexually very repressed, to whom numerous men seem attracted (including, briefly, Banks). Banks eventually drags from Katie that Bernie had come back to Swainshead (that's the name of the village) with the news that Anne Ralston, the woman who had run off, was alive & well & living in Toronto. Sensing that Anne might have passed on some knowledge to Bernie which, if used as blackmail, might have been the cause of his death, Banks takes off to Toronto, and (after a pub crawl which allows for a great deal of local description!) tracks her down in Feathers, in Scarborough. There Anne tells him of the night Steven Collier came to her distraught, and practically confessed to having committed the unsolved murder I mentioned earlier, because of something that had happened in Oxford. Ready to slam the cuffs on Stephen, Banks arrives back to find him dead of an alcohol-sleeping-pill o.d. Less than convinced that it's suicide, he continues to investigate the Oxford angle, & discovers that Nicholas, not Stephen, murdered a prostitute there (tho' the police did not prove it), and that the man killed in the first murder in Swainsdale was a private detective hired by the prostitute's parents. Tho' it is possible that Stephen killed both this detective & Bernie Allen to protect his brother, it is certain that Nicholas killed the girl and his own brother. All this too late, tho' - Katie, under sexual attack by Nicholas, goes off her rocker and murders him violently. The surprise ending is very good. The Toronto descriptions of Robinson's cronies at Feathers are perhaps a little self-indulgent!