The phrase “this time, it’s personal” is among the hoariest of jacket-copy clichés, yet that’s what popped into my head after finishing Peter Robinson’s 19th Inspector Banks novel. The most recent entries in the series explored acute changes in Banks’s personal life, from the mysterious death of his brother to the ebb and flow of his romantic relationships. But before Bad Boy, Banks hasn’t been cut to the quick, nor has he acted out of such primal fury.
He is driven to greater extremes than ever thanks to the vortex of trouble his daughter Tracy finds herself in after some nasty business involving her roommate, Erin, and a charismatic young man named Jaff whom both women fancy. Following a shabby series of events involving a stolen gun and a death caused by a police Taser, Tracy and Jaff find themselves on the run. Jaff soon reveals the cruelty lurking behind his surface charm, but Tracy finds she has little choice but to stick with him.
Robinson does an admirable job describing Tracy’s confused motives and the very real danger she is in, contrasting the growing suspense of her plight with Banks’s dawning realization of the lengths he’ll go to in order to rescue her.
Whereas the previous Banks novel, All the Colours of Darkness, suffered from a plot that tended to meander, Bad Boy has a greater sense of control: the disparate plot threads fuse dramatically and dare the reader to put the book down before the dark yet hopeful ending.