Synopses & Reviews
Piece of My Heart
is Peter Robinsons outstanding sixteenth novel in the acclaimed Inspector Banks series. Richly textured with the music and conflicting mores of 1960s Britain, the story weaves between two eras as it explores just how dangerously things can go awry when one generation is estranged from the next, when fathers no longer understand their daughters.
The novel opens in 1969. Yorkshires first outdoor rock festival has just finished, and the psychedelic pastoral band the Mad Hatters and other top British groups have departed. Even the last of their fans has gone, leaving behind only a muddy field, littered with rubbish. Volunteers are cleaning up when one of them finds the body of a young woman inside a sleeping bag.
Stanley Chadwick, the straitlaced detective called in to find her killer, could not have less in common with — or less regard for — the people he now has to question: young, disrespectful, long-haired hippies who smoke marijuana and live by the pulsing beats of rock and roll. And he has almost just as little in common with his own daughter, who lied to him about her whereabouts and slipped off to the festival.
More than thirty-five years later, Inspector Alan Banks is investigating the murder of a freelance music journalist who was working on a feature about the Mad Hatters for Mojo magazine. This is not the first time that the Mad Hatters, now aging rock superstars, have been brushed by tragedy, and Banks has to delve into the past to find out exactly what hornets nest the journalist inadvertently stirred up.
This eagerly awaited novel showcases the many reasons why Peter Robinson is among the small elite of authors internationally whose mysteries are nothing less than works of art.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Peter Robinson is the author of sixteen Inspector Banks novels, the previous book, Strange Affair, was chosen as one the best books of 2005 by the Globe and Mail, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and January Magazine, and of two non-series suspense novels, Caedmons Song and No Cure for Love. Strange Affair has also been shortlisted for the LA Times Book Award for best crime fiction novel. He has also published a collection of short stories called Not Safe After Dark. His novels have been translated into over sixteen languages, and he has won a number of international awards, including the MWA Edgar, the CWA Dagger in the Library, the Martin Beck Award, from Sweden, the Danish Palle Rosenkrantz Award, and the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. He has also won five Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards.
Reading Group Guide
1. "They say that if you remember the sixties, you werent there." Piece of My Heart
is partly a story about the past. How do you feel when you read about the 1960s? If you were alive then, do you agree with the above statement? If you werent alive or were too young to remember that decade, do you care about what happened back then? How do your feelings about the 1960s affect your enjoyment of this story?
2. Peter Robinson grew up in Britain and sets his Inspector Banks novels in Yorkshire, England, but he has lived in Canada for many years. His novels make use of many British phrases, such as "vast tip," "bloke," "pulling the birds," "O levels," and "shag." Does the use of these Briticisms increase your enjoyment of the story? Do you think living in Canada for decades might change how the author uses British terms in his writing? Do you think North American English has had an effect on British language since the 1960s? Is that change reflected in this story?
3. "It was a wild October night outside. Banks could hear the wind screaming and moaning and see the dark shadows of tree branches tossing and thrashing beyond the kitchen window." In Piece of My Heart, the weather is often mentioned and seems to change as the story progresses. What are some of the types of weather found in this story, and how does the weather relate to the action of the plot and the mood of the characters when it is depicted?
4. Why do you think the author chose two quotes, one by Goya and one by Shakespeare, to precede this story? What does each quote mean? How does it relate to the plot and the theme of this story? How do you feel about authors prefacing their stories with quotes from other writers?
5. Piece of My Heart is the type of mystery novel usually referred to as a "police procedural." Because the story shows the police at work in two different times, the 1960s and the present, the reader can see both old and new police procedures applied to the same problems, for example, the analysis of blood patterns at the crime scene. What procedures have remained the same despite the passage of time? What are some procedures available to Alan Banks, but not to Stanley Chadwick? Are the new ways necessarily better? Can you think of ways in which Chadwicks case would have been solved differently had newer techniques been available to him? Did new techniques allow Banks to find out things Chadwick could not have known about the murder of Linda Lofthouse? Or did Banks depend mostly on the time-honoured methods used by detectives?
6. What are some of the techniques the author uses to make transitions between the "old" mystery in this story and the "new" mystery?
7. Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Mojo magazine . . . does the inclusion of real celebrities and factual information about the entertainment world increase your enjoyment of this novel? Why?
8. This story, like actual police procedures in a homicide investigation, depends on interviewing suspects. Does Chadwicks interview style differ from Bankss? If you were being interviewed in a murder investigation, with which detective, Chadwick or Banks, would you be most likely to co-operate? Would this choice differ if you were guilty?
9. In what ways do you feel Bankss personal life enhances his skills as a detective? In what ways does Chadwicks personal life inhibit his skill as a detective? And vice versa?
10. What is the physical piece of a heart in this story? What is the metaphorical or symbolic piece of a heart? How does this symbol relate to the treatment of the many different parent-child relationships in the book? Consider Yvonne and Stanley Chadwick, Brian and Alan Banks, Kelly and Calvin Soames, and Nick Barber and his parents.
11. Annie Cabbot thinks, "You get to know the dead, become their voice in a way, because they can no longer speak for themselves." Do homicide investigators speak for the dead? How does that idea make you feel about characters like Banks and Cabbot? How do you feel when a murderer goes uncaught and unpunished?
12. The quality called "immediacy" means the writers ability to put you, the reader, right on the scene, often through detailed description. Look at some of the locales of this story: the rock concert, the village, the neighbourhoods of London, the pubs, the police station. By what means does the author achieve immediacy in these scenes?
13. Both Vic Greaves and Patrick McGarrity are "weirdos." Is it natural to suspect odd people of criminal behaviour? Is it fair? Can you think of any real cases in which eccentrics like McGarrity and Greaves have been convicted of crimes because of their offbeat habits?
14. In the 1960s storyline, Keith Enderby says, "And girls these days think there ought to be more for them in life. They want to work, for example, and get paid as much as men for doing the same job." Has this changed? How does the juxtaposition of the two times — the 1960s and the present — in this story show you that the world has changed in the past forty years? What does this juxtaposition tell you about things that havent changed?
15. Unlike other Banks books, in this one, the detective has no love interest. Can you see any character in this story who might become a love interest for Banks in a future story?