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    Review of PLAYING WITH FIRE by Peter Robinson

    William Morrow, January 2004

    When two abandoned river barges catch fire, killing two squatters, the signs point to arson. Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks and sidekick Detective Investigator Annie Cabbot realize that their plans for getting away with their current love interests are shot--they'll be working overtime to track down the firebug--unless the fires were set for a reason more sinister than simply to see things burn. Suspicion first turns to the boyfriend of one of the victims--conveniently absent during the fire. But the young man doesn't feel right to Banks. Could it be the girl's step-father--a man suspected of sexually abusing the girl?

    A second fire two nights later gives Banks and Cabbot another line to pursue--one that centers around art forgery. Because it is just possible that someone is cleaning up a mess--or a criminal network that has turned on him. Fortunately, Cabbot's boyfriend is an art professional. Unfortunately, Banks doesn't like the handsome boyfriend and the result is friction between two cops who have to work together closely.

    Author Peter Robinson does a fine job developing characters and story simultaneously. Banks, with his recently ended marriage, his unsuccessful affair with Cabbot, and his current go-nowhere relationship with an out-of-town cop, remains sympathetic as he tries to track down the criminal--and to keep his feelings toward Cabbot's lover from veering into jealousy. Detours into the point of view of the young man initially suspected of arson add to the story's atmosphere.

    I thought that the solution became a bit too obvious a bit too soon--and some of Banks' decisions seemed irrational, but overall, PLAYING WITH FIRE was an engrossing and enjoyable read.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 6/27/04

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