Aftermath, the first DCI Banks story to be televised, was on tonight, and I’d been looking forward to the first episode of this two-parter eagerly. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a long-time fan of the books by Peter Robinson, having come across his work shortly after Banks made his debut. Books like Gallows View and The Hanging Valley were early favourites, along with the non-series, and quite excellent, Caedmon’s Song.
DCI Alan Banks is played on TV by Stephen Tompkinson, a reliable actor who strikes me as very well cast as the Yorkshire cop. You can, of course, argue that there has been a surfeit of crime shows featuring a somewhat world-weary lead character with a troubled personal life, but the fact is that Banks first appeared in 1987, the same year Inspector Morse turned up on TV. So he isn’t a derivative of Morse, even if plenty of other detectives have been cut from similar cloth in the intervening years.
What sets the Robinson books apart, though, is ultimately the author’s story-telling skills rather than Banks, likeable though the guy is. Aftermath is a good story, out of the ordinary run and the adaptation was well done. The set-up is gripping. The police stumble upon the lair of an apparent serial killer when investigating a 'domestic'. There are four girls’ bodies in his cellar – but five girls fitting the same profile have gone missing, so where is the fifth girl, Leanne? I felt this episode got the character, and the series, off to a cracking start. In the early part of the story, Banks came over as something of a wimp (he isn’t in the books) but he toughened up a bit later on, and I thought the chemistry between him and Annie Cabot was terrific. You can bet I’ll be tuning in for the second part of the story next week.
Incidentally, a short time ago I came across the typescript of an article I wrote in the late 80s, for a countryside magazine. It featured crime fiction with rural settings, and never got published, but it highlighted the merits of two new writers I had recently read and admired, and whom, at that time, I’d never met in person. One was Robinson, the other was Ann Cleeves, whose own books about Vera Stanhope will soon appear on the small screen. Now that’s what I call talent spotting!