Peter Robinson’s first collection of short crime fiction to be published in Canada spans his writing career and reveals his impeccable grasp of both mystery and suspense writing. The sixteen stories are set in places as far flung as Inspector Alan Banks’s turf in Yorkshire, Robinson’s own neighbourhood in Toronto, and in Los Angeles and Florida. They also reach back in time: to 1873 to an utopian milltown in northern England in 1873, to Thomas Hardy country in 1939, and to a small Yorkshire town during the Second World War.
The collection also includes a novella, featuring Robinson’s celebrated sleuth Inspector Banks. Going Home is a chilling yet profoundly moving tale of just how hard it can be to visit one’s elderly parents, even for only a few days.
Four of the stories have won awards: ‘Innocence” won the Crime Writers of Canada Best Short Story Award in 1991, and “The Two Ladies of Rose Cottage” won the Mystery Readers International’s Macavity Award in 1998 and wasnominated for both the Agatha and Arthur Ellis awards. “Murder in Utopia” won Robinson his fifth Arthur Ellis Award in 2001, the same year that “Missing in Action” won the Edgar Award.close this panel
Excerpted from "Fan Mail"
The letter arrived one sunny Thursday morning in August, along with a Visa bill and a royalty statement. Dennis Quilley carried the mail out to the deck of his Beaches home, stopping by the kitchen on the way to pour himself a gin and tonic. He had already been writing for three hours straight and he felt he deserved a drink.
First he looked at the amount of the royalty cheque, then he put aside the Visa bill and picked up the letter carefully, as if he were a forensic expert investigating it for prints. Postmarked Toronto and dated four days earlier, it was addressed in a small, precise hand and looked as if it had been written with a fine-nibbed calligraphic pen. But the postal code was different; that had been hurriedly scrawled in with a ballpoint. Whoever it was, Quilley thought, had probably got his name from the telephone directory and had then looked up the code in the post office just before mailing.
Pleased with his deductions, Quilley opened the letter. Written in the same neat and mannered hand as the address, it said:
Dear Mr. Quilley,
Please forgive me for writing to you at home like this. I know you must be very busy, and it is inexcusable of me to intrude on your valuable time. Believe me, I would not do so if I could think of any other way.
I have been a great fan of your work for many years now. As a collector of mysteries, too, I also have first editions of all your books. From what I have read, I know you are a clever man and, I hope, just the man to help me with my problem.
For the past twenty years, my wife has been making my life a misery. I put up with her for the sake of the children, but now they have all gone to live their own lives. I have asked her for a divorce, but she just laughed in my face. I have decided, finally, that the only way out is to kill her and that is why I am seeking your advice.
You may think this is insane of me, especially saying it in a letter, but it is just a measure of my desperation. I would quite understand it if you went straight to the police, and I am sure they would find me and punish me. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. Even that would be preferable to the misery I must suffer day after day.
If you can find it in your heart to help a devoted fan in his hour of need, please meet me on the roof lounge of the Park Plaza Hotel on Wednesday, 19 August at two p.m. I have taken the afternoon off work and will wait longer if for any reason you are delayed. Don’t worry, I will recognize you easily from your photo on the dust jacket of your books.
Yours, in hope,
The letter slipped from Quilley’s hand. He couldn’t believe what he’d just read. He was a mystery writer — he specialized in devising ingenious murders — but for someone to assume that he did the same in real life was absurd. Could it be a practical joke?
He picked up the letter and read through it again. The man’s whining tone and clichéd style seemed sincere enough, and the more Quilley thought about it, the more certain he became that none of his friends was sick enough to play such a joke.
Assuming that it was real, then, what should he do? His impulse was to crumple up the letter and throw it away. But should he go to the police? No. That would be a waste of time. The real police were a terribly dull and literal-minded lot. They would probably think he was seeking publicity.
He found that he had screwed up the sheet of paper in his fist, and he was just about to toss it aside when he changed his mind. Wasn’t there another option? Go. Go and meet the man. Find out more about him. Find out if he was genuine. Surely there would be no obligation in that? All he had to do was turn up at the Park Plaza at the appointed time and see what happened.
Quilley’s life was fine — no troublesome woman to torment him, plenty of money (mostly from American sales), a beautiful lakeside cottage near Huntsville, a modicum of fame, the esteem of his peers — but it had been rather boring of late. Here was an opportunity for adventure of a kind. Besides, he might get a story idea out of the meeting. Why not go and see?
He finished his drink and smoothed the letter on his knee. He had to smile at that last bit. No doubt the man would recognize him from his book-jacket photo, but it was an old one and had been retouched in the first place. His cheeks had filled out a bit since then and his thinning hair had acquired a sprinkling of grey. Still, he thought, he was a handsome man for fifty: handsome, clever and successful.
Smiling, he picked up both letter and envelope and went back to the kitchen in search of matches. There must be no evidence.
Peter Robinson is the author of the Inspector Banks novels, including Strange Affair, which was chosen as one the best books of 2005 by the Globe and Mail, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and January Magazine, and of two non-series suspense novels, Caedmon’s Song and No Cure for Love. Strange Affair has also been shortlisted for the LA Times Book Award for best crime fiction novel. He has also published a collection of short stories called Not Safe After Dark. His novels have been translated into over sixteen languages, and he has won a number of international awards, including the MWA Edgar, the CWA Dagger in the Library, the Martin Beck Award, from Sweden, the Danish Palle Rosenkrantz Award, and the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. He has also won five Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards.
From the eBook edition.close this panel
“Most impressive about the collection is that it clearly shows the range of Robinson’s talent as he handily switches the narration from the first to the third person, changes form from police procedural to psychological suspense, and shifts locales from Los Angeles to Yorkshire.”
“Peter Robinson, creator of the excellent Inspector Alan Banks series, is also one of the genre’s most talented short fiction authors.…‘The Two Ladies of Rose Cottage’ [is] one of the best short stories I’ve read in years.”
–Globe and Mail