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Crescent Blues Book ViewsWilliam Marrow (Hardcover), ISBN 0-06-019877X

Two barges burst into flames on an English canal. Firefighters discover the bodies of a young woman and a local artist in the charred rubble and detect evidence of accelerant usage. Arson and the possibility of a double murder enter the equation. When further analysis confirms arson as the source of the deadly fire, Detective Inspectors Alan Blanks and Annie Cabbot begin their investigation. The detectives compile a varied list of suspects including an inhabitant of the old canal lockkeeper's house, the murdered woman's lover and members of the victim's own family.

Book: peter robinson, playing with fire
While Blanks and Cabbot painstakingly research the backgrounds of every possible suspect, another mysterious fire claims a third victim. A lockbox found at the scene contains what appear to be valuable canvases from an internationally known artist. Further examination, however, casts doubt about the authenticity of the paintings. Finding the forged art becomes a significant aid in piecing together the evidence already at hand, and the intrepid detectives formulate a theory that suggests art forgery, drugs and fraud as keys to the murders.

As the investigation continues, the bond between Cabbot and Blanks -- once more than just friends and comrades -- hits a bumpy stretch. Blanks suspects Cabbot's relationship with Philip Keane, an expert on art forgery, may be more than purely professional. Meanwhile Blanks discovers some shocking truths and begins to zero in on the murderer. As he moves ever closer to a solution, the arsonist sets a trap, and Blanks finds himself fighting for his life in a desperate struggle to avoid becoming the murderer's next victim.

In this episode of the Inspector Blanks novels -- the 14th of the series -- Peter Robinson crafts a complex tale of treachery, hidden identities, unusual twists and enough red herrings to stimulate the taste of this genre's devotees. Those readers who relish intricate, systematic, and meticulous detective investigation spiced with a dash of British understatement will thoroughly enjoy this novel. Its blend of intrigue and clever plot twists should appeal to the casual mystery reader as well.

Clint Hunter

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