BOOK REVIEW: FRIEND OF THE DEVIL
Two murders occur in two different towns In England. Outside of the town of Whitby, a paraplegic elderly looking woman who goes by the name of Karen Drew is found in her wheelchair, throat slit, overlooking the ocean, by a man walking his dog. In Eastvale, a nineteen-year-old woman, Hayley Daniels, is discovered raped and strangled in a building where scraps of leather have been stored in. It's located in an area of old buildings and shops crammed together, called The Maze, used as a shortcut and often as a liaison place to meet people or do drugs. Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, on loan to Whitby due to a lack of cops because of the flu and other, personal reasons, takes on the wheelchair murder case, and Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks draws The Maze one. What could be the link between the two cases, if any?
Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson, the latest mystery-suspense novel in the Alan Banks series, is a spellbinding read that is about these bizarrely related murders. Also, the two murders are tied in with the atrocious tortures, rapes and murders of teen girls committed by the serial killer Terrence Payne decades ago. He was a man who was so evil and malicious he earned the nickname of the Chameleon. His wife, Lucy Payne, who was also complicit in the crimes, became known as the Friend of the Devil. Their house was called the House of Payne. It was a case that both Annie and Alan had worked on:
He didn't have to read their files to know their names: Kimberly Myers, age fifteen,
failed to return home from a school dance one Friday night. Kelly Diane Mathews,
age seventeen, went missing during a New Year's Eve party in Roudhay Park, Leeds;
Samantha Jane Foster, eighteen years old, disappeared on her way home from a poetry
reading at a pub near the University of Bradford; Leanne Wray, sixteen, vanished on
a ten-minute walk between a pub and her parents' house in Eastvale; Melissa Horracks, aged seventeen, failed to return home from a pop concert in Harrogate. Five young
girls, all victims of Terence Payne, who came to be called the "Chameleon" and, many people believed, also of his wife Lucy Payne, who later became the notorious "Friend
of the Devil."
The novel interweaves the two cases, often in the same chapter, and the efforts of Cabbot and Banks and their fellow cops to utilize their considerable talents to catch their culprits. Both cases are fascinating in their own right, and I would have liked the book even if the two cases weren't related at all. Reading about how they relate, though, and how Cabbot and Banks eventually join forces, makes the pleasure of spending a few hours in the detectives' company even more of a joy.
They both have their own demons to combat along the way, as well. This is perhaps more so for Cabbot. She has trouble forming and keeping up relationships with men her age because she was assaulted and raped in another book in the series. Annie did have a romance with Banks, who is several years older than herself, but broke it off, fearing long-term intimacy. Banks also has relationship problems, and wonders if he might have blown his last chance at having a decent one when he and Annie split up.
There are plenty of suspects, though Cabbot has to uncover Karen Drew's real identity before any real motives become clear to her. For Banks, an attractive, intelligent young woman, the motive could have been anything from a jealous ex-lover lying in wait, to a sexual deviant, to an opportunist lying in wait for whoever happened to come around first, like a spider lying in ambush in its web. The author is a master at writing superb police procedural novels, and this one is no exception.
Friend of the Devil will keep you up late into the night turning pages and trying to navigate its many twists and turns. Unlike The Maze Hayley Daniels meets her demise in, the maze you'll enter upon reading Robinson's latest in paperback will be an enjoyable experience. Like all of the novels in the series, Friend of the Devil is engrossing and if you're a fan of police procedurals or suspenseful mysteries in general, you'll love this book.
REVIEWED BY DOUGLAS R. COBB
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