If you read Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series, you know that Banks has eclectic tastes in music and huge libraries of vinyl and electronic recordings for his home, car, and personal player. Some fans have assembled playlists to accompany a few of the 24 books that comprise this series of police procedurals.
In Robinson’s latest Banks mystery, Sleeping in the Ground , the opening chapter describes the murders which his investigation will solve. Each book in the series also adds to our knowledge of the character of Alan Banks.
This time we find Banks leaving the crematorium after the funeral of his first serious girlfriend, claimed by cancer. It has been many years since the two had been in touch, — and of their summer of love in college back in 1972. But the song that his lost love chose for the consignment of her body to the flames, “Starman,” is unsurprising to Banks, and he plays it repeatedly as the train takes him home to the Yorkshire dales.
Throughout the book he reflects on their romance; he remembers their shared joy at seeing David Bowie playing as Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
Finally, after the case has concluded and several members of his team return to his cottage, a somber Alan Banks slips away to his back porch, where one of his youngest detectives finds him listening to something that sounds a little bit like the Bowie albums her father once listened to.
Banks tells her she’s right. It is Bowie. He’s listening to Blackstar. Perhaps, he says, he’ll play it for her some day.
It’s a small tribute, but a tender one.