Close to Home: A Novel of Suspense
A pair of unconscionable deaths separated by miles and years threatens to bring to light shocking revelations that could destroy careers, reputations, cherished myths, and fragile lives. And the terrible truths that lie buried in a mire of betrayal and deception could prove equally devastating to the living and the memory of the dead.
1965. Winston Churchill’s funeral. Carnaby Street. The Moors murders. The first U.S. space walk. Help! Mods and rockers. Emma Peel and The Avengers. It was a time of possibility, of hope for the future, the fulcrum point of the sixties. Alan Banks was a teenager on the precipice of manhood with little on his mind but girls and music. Until the day his best friend, Graham, vanished.
For more than thirty-five years, Banks has not forgiven himself for having possibly caused the disappearance and presumed death of Graham that summer. Now a detective chief inspector in Yorkshire, he is consumed by a job that threatens to send him over the edge with its conflicting demands, its proximity to violent death and all that is worst in people. Banks is at an emotional crossroads when, shockingly, brittle bones are unearthed in his childhood town. Identified as Graham’s remains, the imagined skeleton in the detective’s closet is now all too real. Plummeted back into a past he thought he’d overcome, tormented by guilt over his failure to prevent his best friend’s murder so many years ago, Banks is drawn into an investigation that hits dangerously close to home.
To Bank’s horror, history seemingly repeats itself when a troubled young man, the privileged son of a deceased music legend, goes missing and is presumed dead. Working between the two cases, Banks must draw on all his instincts, his experience, and his memories to find the truth—and lay two innocents to rest.
Close to Home was also released under the title The Summer That Never Was.
Having already shown, in 1999’s In a Dry Season, that he can plumb historical homicide for gripping modern drama, Peter Robinson goes further in Close to Home, telling parallel stories about teenage boys lost in a grownup world, decades apart. The first is Graham Marshall, a childhood pal of Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, who vanished mysteriously in 1965, the supposed victim of a pedophile. Hearing that Graham’s bones have finally been unearthed, Banks quits his vacation in Greece and heads to his hometown of Petersborough, England, hoping to assist the investigation—and, perhaps, assuage his guilt over his friend’s fate. Meanwhile, Banks’s colleague and ex-lover, Annie Cabbot, is busy probing the recent disappearance of 15-year-old Luke Armitage, the sensitive, brainy son of a rock star who committed suicide during Luke’s infancy. After Cabbot catches hell for interrupting what may or may not have been a legitimate ransom payment for Luke’s return, she seeks Banks’s advice, drawing these two plot lines neatly together.
As this intense and intricately crafted puzzler develops, blending fiction with a bit of fact (the Kray brothers, who ran a criminal ring in London’s East End during the mid-20th century, play off-camera roles here), Robinson explores Banks’s troubled relationship with his parents, especially his working-class father, who “had never approved of his choice of career.” He also raises doubts about a famed copper who’d originally tackled the Marshall case, involves Banks romantically with a damaged detective whose investigative diligence threatens her safety, and shows Cabbot as someone better and stronger than merely Banks’s protégé. Working with themes of lost youth and the dark secrets hidden in small towns, Robinson delivers in this 13th Banks novel a police procedural of remarkable human depth. —J. Kingston Pierce