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Two and one half moon gifAvon Books (Paperback), ISBN 0380716453
When the ringing phone summons Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks to a murder scene, Banks quickly forgets family and Sunday's quiet roast beef dinner. Instead, the inspector dedicates himself to solving the mysterious murder of Professor Harry Steadman, the wealthiest man in Swainsdale, a small, rural northern England hamlet. 

Book: Peter Robinson, Dedicated ManThe well-liked Professor Steadman moved to the village about 18 months previously, but spent his holidays in Swainsdale for years. When Steadman inherited a fortune from his father, he and his wife Emma bought the bed and breakfast where they stayed during holidays, and settled in. Steadman dedicated each waking moment to his research on the area's archaeology and his subsequent book; Emma to taking care of him.  

On this particular Sunday, Steadman and his publisher and former holiday chum, Michael Ramsden, planned to spend the day together working on the book. Instead, a local farmer finds the professor's body partially buried under one of the stone fences that border his fields. The medical examiner quickly proclaims the cause of death as a blow to the head with the proverbial blunt instrument. The medical examiner adds that without a doubt, Professor Steadman died elsewhere.  

Book: Peter Robinson, In A Dry SeasonThe examiner's report exhausts the forensic evidence, and Inspector Banks begins the arduous task of recreating Steadman's life, looking for the one person, past or present, who hated the victim enough to kill him. Readers follow Inspector Banks from door to door and pub to pub as he recreates the idylls of Steadman's holidays ten years past as well as the last few hours of his life. 

Peter Robinson introduces a flurry of potential assassins including the victim's wife, his publisher, drinking buddies and the beautiful and mysterious Penny Cartwright. Woven between murder theories are beginning, ending and rebuilding relationships. Robinson pays particular attention to the budding of young love. The book's adolescent interlude builds to a startling and revealing conclusion that parallels a summer from a decade before. 

Through it all, Detective Chief Inspector Banks fiddles, either with lighting his pipe or choosing the appropriate music as he drives the countryside searching for solutions. But don't be irritated by his habits, look deeply and you will find a man with human foibles and an author's veiled clues. 

Robinson's well-thought-out British police procedural reads more like an English cozy than a standard detective novel. Instead of tea and testimony, Banks enjoys a bit of brew and introspection. The story's leisurely pace allows for a school of red herrings and a plethora of false leads. The "dedicated man" of the title may actually refer to the dedicated reader who perseveres to the last page. Sadly, the predictable ending provides scant reward for such dedication.  

Dawn Goldsmith

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