CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Robinson, Peter.

Markham (Ont.), Penguin Books. 1987. 225pp. cloth, $18.95, ISBN 0-670-81422-9. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by James Kingstone

Volume 15 Number 4
1987 July

The psychological elements of Peter Robinson's first novel, Gallows View, make for an engaging and suspenseful exploration of criminal motivation. When a series of peeping Tom and petty thievery incidents escalate into seriousness and take on the sinister qualities of big-city crime, including rape and murder, life in the small Yorkshire town of Eastvale is permanently disrupted. And at the centre of this disruption is opera-loving Chief Inspector Alan Banks, whose decency warmly balances the viciousness that surfaces in this unlikely community.

Characterization and pacing reveal Robinson's sure hand. His characters possess a Dickensian quirkiness, from the detached police superintendent Gristhorpe with his special knowledge of stone wall construction to Banks's passion for music. But these are only two of an unexpectedly large assortment of finely-drawn characters, the kind that no reader can remain indifferent to for long. Short episodes make up each chapter, a method that divides the apparently unrelated strands of several plots and contributes to a sense of a great deal happening in a small spaceóboth of time and geography. The episodic structuring shows Robinson's deft hand at compression, a device that suggests density closely reinforced by the weight of character detail.

Gallows View demonstrates Robinson's strong sexual bias in plotting, aspects of which give the novel a sharp, contemporary flavour. Even Inspector Banks, who is married, is allowed a love interest in Dr. Jenny Fuller, a psychologist called in to help the police department build a profile of the voyeur. But in this world, where the criminal element in sexual relations is never far below the surface, Banks resolves a possibly sordid romantic complication by repudiating extra-marital involvement.

On another level, which speaks of the author's awareness of broader social issues. Gallows View also portrays the collapse of a society, showing England's post-industrial eclipse by internal forces evidently beyond the country's control. Despite Banks' success at fighting crime, we are left feeling that goodness is undermined by forces threatening the whole of society and against which men like Banks can provide only a temporary break. Certainly when he observes at the end "that society seemed to have discarded is concept of evil" he anticipates further decline and, we hope, opens the way for future Inspector Banks crime novels. Peter Robinson has made an impressive debut with Gallows View.

James Kingstone, Peterborough, Ont.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works