Peter Robinson’s WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER Reviewed

When The Music’s Over
Peter Robinson
William Morrow
Aug 9th, 2016

When The Music’s Over by Peter Robinson is an intense mystery. It does not sugar coat and will not be construed as politically correct. The story is inspired by newspaper accounts of true-life incidents concerning abuse of women. It resonates today especially for people who can remember Germany when so many women were sexually harassed during the 2016 New Year’s Eve celebration by men of Arab or North African heritage, as well as the abuse of women by celebrity men. Tackling this problem within a gripping plot, Robinson will enlighten readers.

In the beginning of the novel fans will learn that Banks is now a Detective Superintendent. The reason Banks received a promotion by Robinson, “I did some research and found out if I did not promote him to Superintendent he would have to retire soon. But with the promotion he can work until he is 65. This way I could lengthen his career. I know that the pecking order of police titles can get a bit complicated whether Constable, Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent, and so on.”

Now, a high ranking official, newly promoted Detective Superintendent Alan Banks and his unit are assigned to investigate crimes of older males who target minor females. The perpetrators “groom” these girls by first providing attention and gifts, getting victims emotionally and psychologically under their spell, followed by the violence. Banks and company become a stalwart for justice as they attempt to find those guilty of such vicious acts.

The first crime has respected poet, Linda Palmer, coming forward with an allegation of sexual abuse against a former matinee idol celebrity. This cold case took place fifty years ago when Linda was a starry-eyed teenager, on a vacation with family and friends. The storyline deals with issues of sexual assault, the devastating effects on the victim, the willful ignorance of the high officials, and the difficulties of prosecuting, since such a long period of time has elapsed.

Linda Palmer has similar characteristics to Emily Winslow, who wrote the personal memoir, Jane Doe January, about her being raped. Both did not conform to the stereotypic view of a victim. Banks thinks how Linda is “no damaged witness…Might that make her story seem less credible to a judge or jury. Would people demand more wailing and gnashing of teeth?” But anyone who thinks this attitude can only exist in a novel should compare it to what Winslow noted, “I tried to understand and accept that the jury could only like me if I conformed to some very narrow range of emotion. I could not be angry. When on the stand I would have to show emotions of vulnerability and hurt; yet, hold back on other emotions. I wondered how do you let sadness show but keep anger in, and be vulnerable but keep my dignity.”

Robinson commented, “I did not want Linda to be a typical victim whose life was ruined. She is not just a survivor, but also someone who achieved something despite what she went through. Although a fighter she is hermit-like, living alone in an isolated area.”

The second plot has Detective Inspector Annie Banks and Detective Constable Geraldine Masterson investigating the murder of a teenage girl found naked on a roadside. She was drugged, appeared thrown out of a van, and beaten to death. Robinson artfully writes about the attitude by some sections of society who believe that women are available to be used and abused, debased, traded and treated like commodities, many from the Pakistani culture.

He doesn’t shy away from provocative statements, showing how some are accused of racism if they point out that some Muslims do not have an “enlightened attitude towards women…they weren’t caught before because everyone – including us (the police) – turned a blind eye because we were scared of upsetting the Muslim community.”

These gripping stories show how young girls are neglected by society. Both crimes reflect current issues showing how some feel they can do anything and get away with it because of they see themselves in a position of power.

Robinson said, “I put these two stories together because they have the same theme. It is abuse of young women by men who are aided in different ways by other men. Officials do nothing because they are either in power and choose to look the other way or are afraid of being called a racist. It seems the immigration community is never investigated, nor are celebrities who get away with it if they have friends in high places. I hope readers are put in a quandary and think a bit: if someone commits a crime it should not matter their origin, power, or status. But unfortunately it does.”

Readers will be wrapped up in this novel. Besides being a riveting mystery it deals with explosive issues. It is a well-written police procedural that will engage the reader.

Elise Cooper

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