Two murders . . . two towns . . .
A woman sits in a wheelchair perched on a cliff high above the sea, her throat slit from ear to ear . . .
In a maze of narrow alleys behind a market square, a teenaged girl has been murdered after a night of drunken revelries with her friends.
The seemingly senseless Cliffside killing falls to Inspector Annie Cabbot, on loan to a local police department. The terrible death of young Hayley Daniels becomes Chief Inspector Alan Banks's investigation. But shattering revelations threaten to awaken the slumbering demons of earlier, darker times, and more blood is in the offing when the two cases brutally and unexpectedly collide.
Friend of the Devil is a chilling, brilliant, and utterly mesmerizing novel of suspense.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Sunday mornings were hardly sacrosanct to Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. After all, he didn’t go to church, and he rarely awoke with such a bad hangover that it was painful to move or speak. In fact, the previous evening he had watched The Black Dahlia on DVD and had drunk two glasses of Tesco’s finest Chilean Cabernet with his reheated pizza funghi. But he did appreciate a lie-in and an hour or two’s peace with the newspapers as much as the next man. For the afternoon, he planned to phone his mother and wish her a happy Mother’s Day, then listen to some of the Shostakovich string quartets he had recently purchased from iTunes and carry on reading Tony Judt’s Postwar. He found that he read far less fiction these days; he felt a new hunger to understand, from a different perspective, the world in which he had grown up. Novels were all well and good for giving you a flavour of the times, but he needed facts and interpretations, the big picture.
That Sunday, the third in March, such luxury was not to be. It started innocently enough, as such momentous sequences of events often do, at about half past eight, with a phone call from Detective Sergeant Kevin Templeton, who was on duty in the Western Area Major Crimes squad room that weekend.
“Guv, it’s me. DS Templeton.”
Banks felt a twinge of distaste. He didn’t like Templeton, would be happy when his transfer finally came through. There were times when he tried to tell himself it was because Templeton was too much like him, but that wasn’t the case. Templeton didn’t only cut corners, he trampled on far too many people’s feelings and, worse, he seemed to enjoy it. “What is it?” Banks grunted. “It had better be good.”
“It’s good, sir. You’ll like it.”
Banks could hear traces of obsequious excitement in Templeton’s voice. Since their last run-in, the young DS had tried to ingratiate himself in various ways, but this kind of phony breathless deference was too Uriah Heep for Banks’s liking.
“Why don’t you just tell me?” said Banks. “Do I need to get dressed?” He held the phone away from his ear as Templeton laughed.
“I think you should get dressed, sir, and make your way down to Taylor’s Yard as soon as you can.”
Taylor’s Yard, Banks knew, was one of the narrow passages that led into the Maze, which riddled the south side of the town centre behind Eastvale’s market square. It was called a yard not because it resembled a square or a garden in any way, but because some bright spark had once remarked that it wasn’t much more than a yard wide. “And what will I find there?” he asked.
“Body of a young woman,” said Templeton. “I’ve checked it out myself. In fact, I’m there now.”
“You didn’t —”
“I didn’t touch anything, sir. And between us, Police Constable Forsythe and me have got the area taped off and sent for the doctor.”
“Good,” said Banks, pushing aside the Sunday Times crossword he had hardly started and looking longingly at his still-steaming cup of black coffee. “Have you called the super?”
“Not yet, sir. I thought I’d wait till you’d had a butcher’s. No sense in jumping the gun.”
“All right,” said Banks. Detective Superintendent Catherine Gervaise was probably enjoying a lie-in after a late night out to see Orfeo at Opera North in Leeds. Banks had seen it on Thursday with his daughter, Tracy, and enjoyed it very much. He wasn’t sure whether Tracy had. She seemed to have turned in on herself these days. “I’ll be there in half an hour,” he said. “Three-quarters at the most. Ring DI Cabbot and DS Hatchley. And get DC Jackman there, too.”
“DI Cabbot’s still on loan to Eastern, sir.”
“Of course. Damn.” If this was a murder, Banks would have liked Annie’s help. They might have problems on a personal level, but they still worked well as a team.
Banks went upstairs and showered and dressed quickly, then back in the kitchen he filled his travel mug with coffee to drink on the way, making sure the top was pressed down tight. More than once he’d had a nasty accident with a coffee mug. He turned everything off, locked up and headed for the car.
He was driving his brother’s Porsche. Though he still didn’t feel especially comfortable in such a luxury vehicle, he was finding that he liked it better each day. Not so long ago, he had thought of giving it to his son, Brian, or to Tracy, and that idea still held some appeal. The problem was that he didn’t want to make one of them feel left out, or less loved, so the choice was proving to be a dilemma. Brian’s band had gone through a slight change of personnel recently, and he was rehearsing with some new musicians. Tracy’s exam results had been a disappointment to her, though not to Banks, and she was passing her time rather miserably working in a bookshop in Leeds and sharing a house in Headingley with some old student friends. So who deserved a Porsche? He could hardly cut it in half.
It had turned windy and cool, so Banks went back to switch his sports jacket for his zip-up leather jacket. If he was going to be standing around in the back alleys of Eastvale while the SOCOs, the photographer and the police surgeon did their stuff, he might as well stay as warm as possible. Once snug in the car, he started the engine and set off through Gratly, down the hill to Helmthorpe and on to the Eastvale Road. He plugged his iPod into the adapter, on shuffle, and Ray Davies’s “All She Wrote” came on, a song he particularly liked, especially the line about the big Australian barmaid. That would do for a Sunday-morning drive to a crime scene, he thought; it would do just fine.
Reading Group Guide
1. Peter Robinson uses his mystery novels to explore important concepts and social issues. In Friend of the Devil, justice and revenge are explored in depth, particularly with regard to the murder of the woman in the wheelchair. How do you feel about that murder? How does your point of view differ from Alan Banks’ feelings about her and those of Annie Cabbot?
2. Annie believes that Banks had a very complicated relationship with the wheelchair murder victim, that Banks understood her. Do you think that is true, and why? Could Annie herself be accused of the same kind of complex relationship by the end of the novel?
3. Kevin Templeton is an interesting character in the series; reviled by many, he is accorded grudging respect by some for his intuitive grasp of criminal cases. Discuss the pivotal role he plays in this novel. Will what happened to him change the way he is regarded, and if so, how? Would he have eventually made a good police officer as Banks insists? Will he be missed?
4. Cracks are appearing in the morale of Banks’s police unit, in part because of the moral and ethical judgments the members make about each other. Discuss the issues that are threatening the group’s solidarity. In particular, do you think that DS Winsome Jackson’s views of her colleagues are understandable?
5. Annie Cabbot, who has endured some tough times as a police officer, makes a serious error of judgment in this book. What is your impression of what she did? Annie considers it to be "problem over." Do you agree that the "Eric" issue is resolved at the end of the book? If not, what do you foresee for Annie?
6. There are a number of female characters in this book, some very strong and successful, and others who have been damaged by events in their pasts. Why do you think that some of them have coped well with the hand that life has dealt them, while others have not? Does Peter Robinson’s portrayal of these women ring true?
7. Peter Robinson tells us a lot about the music the central characters — Banks, Annie, and now Sophia — listen to and about the books they read. Do these details enhance your understanding of these characters, and if so, in what way?
8. Banks’s love life has always been a bit of a shambles. Now Annie is having second thoughts about their breakup, and the alluring Sophia has arrived on the scene. Just how complicated do you think Bank’s love life is going to get?
9. One of the central "characters" in Friend of the Devil is the Maze itself. Discuss it in terms of a setting for murder. Do you think it could be seen as a metaphor for the police investigation and for the crimes and their resolution?
10. There are those who would say that murderers are victims, too, of everything from imagined slights to truly horrific events in their past. Discuss this idea of the murderer as victim, and how it applies to Friend of the Devil.
11. Do you believe that murder is ever justifiable?
12. In the end, was justice served in Friend of the Devil?