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About the Author
One of the world’s most popular and acclaimed writers, Peter Robinson is the best-selling, award-winning author of the DCI Banks series; he has also written two short-story collections and three stand-alone novels, which combined have sold more than ten million copies around the world. Among his many honors and prizes are the Edgar Award, the CWA (UK) Dagger in the Library Award, and the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Martin Beck Award.
Read an Excerpt
An excerpt from the new novella about DCI Alan Banks, Like A Virgin, one of three stories about Banks in The Price of Love.
In the soft light of the red-shaded bulb that hung over the centre of the room, the girl’s body looked serene. She could easily have been sleeping, Banks thought, as he moved forward to get a better view of her. She lay on her back on the pink candlewick bedspread, covered from neck to toe by a white sheet, hands clasped together above the swell of her breasts in an attitude of prayer or supplication, her long dark hair spread out on the pillow. Her pale features were delicate and finely-etched, and Banks imagined she had been quite a beauty in life. He wondered what she had looked like when she smiled or frowned. Her hazel eyes were devoid of life now, her face free of makeup, and at first glance there wasn’t a mark on her. But when Banks peered closer, he could see the petechial hemorrhages, the tiny telltale dots of blood in her conjunctiva, a sign of death by asphyxia. There was no bruising on her neck, so he guessed suffocation rather than strangulation, but Dr. O’Grady, the Home Office pathologist who knelt beside her at his silent ministrations, would be able to tell him more after his in situ examination.
The room was small and stuffy, but the Persian-style carpet and striped wallpaper gave it a homely touch. It seemed well-maintained, despite its location on the fringes of Soho. No sleazy backstreet hovel for this girl. The window hadn’t been open when Banks arrived, and he knew better than to tamper with the scene in any way, so he left it closed. There wasn’t much space for furniture — a small dressing table with mirror, a washstand in the corner next to the cubicle WC, and a bedside table, on which stood a chipped enamel bowl where a facecloth floated in discoloured water. In the drawer were condoms, tissues and an assortment of sex aids. Did she live here? Banks didn’t think so. There were no clothes and no cooking facilities.
The victim could have been anywhere between fifteen and twenty-five, Banks thought, and her youth certainly added to the aura of innocence that surrounded her in death. Whether she had appeared that way in life, he didn’t know, but he doubted it.
Someone had clearly gone to great pains to make her look innocent. Her legs were stretched out straight together, and even under the sheet she was fully dressed. Her clothes — a short skirt, patent leather high heels, dark tights and a green scallop-neck top — were provocative, but not too tarty. Much more tasteful than that. So what was it all about?
Her handbag contained the usual: cigarettes, a yellow disposable lighter, keys on a fluffy rabbit’s foot ring, makeup, tampons, a cheap ballpoint pen and a purse with a few pounds and some loose change. There was no address book or diary and no credit cards or identification of any kind. The only item Banks found of any interest was a creased photograph of a proud, handsome young man in what looked like his best suit, bouncing a little girl on his knee. There was a resemblance, and Banks guessed it was the victim and her father. According to the girlfriend who had found her, Jackie Simmons, the victim’s name was Pamela Morrison.
Banks went back to stand in the doorway. He had quickly learned that the fewer people who entered a room before the SOCOs got to work, the better. He was on detachment from Soho Division to the West Central Murder Squad. Everything was squads and specialists these days, and if you didn’t find your niche somewhere pretty fast, you soon became a general dogsbody. Nobody wanted that, especially Banks. He seemed to have a knack for ferreting out murderers, and luckily for him the powers that be in the Metropolitan Police Force agreed. So here he was. His immediate boss, Detective Superintendent Bernard Hatchard, was officially in charge of the investigation, of course, but he was so burdened by paperwork and public relations duties that he rarely left the station and was more than happy to leave the legwork to his DI and his oppo DS Ozzy Albright — as long as he got regular updates so he didn’t sound like a wanker in front of the media.
Banks liked the way things were, but lately he had started to feel the pressure. It wasn’t that there were more murders to deal with, simply that each one seemed to get to him more and take more out of him. But there was no going back. That way lay a desk piled with papers or, worse, traffic duty. He would just have to push on through whatever it was that was dragging him down, keeping him awake at night, making him neglect his family, drink and smoke too much . . . the litany went on.
Harry Beckett, the police photographer was next to arrive, and he went about his business with the usual professional detachment, as if he were photographing a wedding. Dr. O’Grady, who had been called from a formal dinner at the Soho Club, not far away, finally finished his examination, stood up and gave a weary sigh. His knees cracked as he moved.
“I’m getting too old for this, Banks,” he said. And he was looking old, Banks thought. Neat but thinning grey hair, the veins around his nose red and purple, perhaps due to his known fondness for fine claret.
“Any idea when she might have been killed?” Banks asked.
“Somehow, I knew you’d ask me that first,” the doctor said. “None of this is written in stone, mind you, especially given the temperature in the room, but judging by the rigor I’d say she’s been dead since last night, say between ten and one in the morning.”
Table of Contents
Introduction Cornelius Jubb The Magic of Your Touch The Eastvale Ladies’ Poker Circle The Ferryman’s Beautiful Daughter Walking the Dog Blue Christmas Shadows on the Water The Cherub Affair The Price of Love Birthday Dance Like a Virgin Notes