A wedding ends in tragedy when an unknown sharpshooter opens fire. The investigation reveals the culprit early on — a retired dentist whose body is found with the weapon — but further evidence reveals the possibility that the dentist himself was as much a victim as the wedding party.
Sleeping in the Ground is a wonderful slow burn of a character-driven mystery. The sudden violence of the crime is in sharp contrast with the killer’s meticulous planning, and as the investigation progresses, Detective Superintendent Banks and his team realize the motivation may lie deep within the past.
I love the way Peter Robinson peels back the many layers of Banks’ investigation. Sleeping in the Ground has the feel of a classic mystery, where nuanced conversations and thoughtful examination of evidence are the keys to solving crime. Early in the novel, Banks dryly observes that following a paper trail to the murderer is far less sexy than a high speed car chase and violent shootout. This mystery does have its climactic action scene, but the overall feel is certainly much more subdued, though nowhere near as dry as simply following a paper trail. I love the interviews with people involved with the wedding, and the people being approached for clues to the gunman’s identity. Robinson does such a fantastic job creating complex characters, and even a thrift store employee who appears in a single chapter is memorably real.
The series characters are also a major reason this book is so good. I felt for Banks as I read of him dealing with his grief over the death of his first love, and dealing with what he discovers about the real reason she left him. I enjoyed the light-hearted banter in the subplot about DI Annie Cabott’s father crashing with Banks while he looks for a new place. I especially love the professional rivalry between DI Annie and the psychologist profiler (and Banks’ old flame) Jenny Fuller — many books and shows set this up as a debate between hard evidence and soft skills, but Annie defies stereotype by being very intuitive and empathetic herself. Her discomfort with having to take Jenny’s ideas into consideration is purportedly because she feels psychological profiling is superfluous or perhaps just needs more time to get used to the ‘new girl,’ but Robinson does a great job of suggesting at a deeper insecurity that makes Annie so uncomfortable.
Overall, Sleeping in the Ground is a wonderfully nuanced, patient mystery that begs to be savoured.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.