Not Safe After Dark and Other Works is a collection of twenty short stories by Peter Robinson. There are three Inspector Banks stories, one of which Going Back is a novella that had not been published before. The other stories are varied in length, technique and style.
Of them all I prefer the Inspector Banks stories, in particular Going Back. There isn’t much mystery in this story, but a lot about Banks himself, his youth, relationships with his parents and brother Roy and about his old girlfriend, Kay. It’s his parents’ golden wedding anniversary and Banks goes home for the weekend for the party. He sleeps in his old bedroom with its old glass-fronted bookscase containing a cross-section of his early years’ reading, finds old records he’d forgotten he had, his old school reports, photos and his books of adolescent poetry. His mother treats him like she did as a child, prefering his younger brother Roy and his visit is spoilt by the presence of a new neighbour, the ever-helpful and charming Geoff Salisbury. He is suspicious of Geoff from the start – and with good reason.
Some are historical –In Flanders Field, Missing in Action and The Two Ladies of Rose Cottage. The latterwas inspired by Robinson’s visit to Brockhampton in Dorset where Thomas Hardy was born and also by his interest in Hardy. In 1939 the narrator of the story as a young man first met Miss Eunice and Miss Teresa, who had known Thomas Hardy – was she really the Tess on which he based Tess of the D’Urbervilles? She denied it but then it turned out that Miss Teresa was charged with murder, although nothing was proved. Years later Miss Eunice had a shocking tale to tell. This reminded me I still haven’t finished reading Claire Tomalin’s biography of Hardy – The Time-Torn Man.
Of the other stories I also liked Some Land in Florida, in which Santa ends up in the pool with his electric piano thrown in after him – still plugged in. A private eye, there on holiday isn’t convinced it is an accident. April in Paris is a poignantly sad love story about happened when love turned to hatred.
Some of the stories were written when Robinson was asked for stories on a specific topic – Gone the the Dawgs, about American Football and The Duke’s Wife, a modern telling of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
I enjoyed some of these stories more than others – mainly the longer ones. I do prefer novels where characters and plots are more developed than is possible in a short story. I wrote more about this book here.