Capsule reviews

WATCHING THE DARK. By Peter Robinson. William Morrow. 354 pages. $25.99.

One would think a detective inspector recuperating in a convalescent center for police personnel would be safe from harm.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for poor Bill Quinn, who is found dead on the center’s grounds, shot by a crossbow, in Peter Robinson’s latest Inspector Banks novel, “Watching the Dark.”

To complicate matters, compromising photos of Quinn are found in his room, necessitating an internal affairs investigation, and it appears his slaying may be connected to a still-unsolved case he was working six years ago involving the disappearance of an English girl in Estonia.

As usual, author Robinson manages to skillfully weave together several threads as Banks travels to Estonia to retrace Quinn’s steps there, his subordinates work the murder investigation at home and Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot tentatively returns to work after being shot during a previous case.

Although Banks’ investigation takes him far from his usual North Yorkshire stomping grounds, fans of the Scotch-drinking, music-loving inspector will not be disappointed in his latest case, which may even set the stage for a new romance in books to come.

Reviewer Christine W. Randall is the marketing promotions coordinator for The Post and Courier.

GHOST MAN. By Roger Hobbs. Knopf. 321 pages. $24.95.

Promise, potential — these are words writers hate to hear. You jam up on the keyboard creating something; somebody leans over your shoulder and says, whoa, I think the next one will show what you can really do.

But the opening chapter of Roger Hobbs’ “Ghost Man,” when a big-jackpot casino robbery turns into a sniper attack, blazes by with such unnerving immediacy that the mind starts making comparisons to some of the best crime novel writers out there. Current wonder-boy author Lee Child even contributes a dust blurb to “this amazing debut.”

Killer lines drive the tale: “There are three good ways to rob a casino. The first is in the front door.”

But then the backstory starts taking on chapters of its own, becoming a competing tale that pulls away from the main story. That saps tension from both.

The lead character, a mysterious “never been caught, questioned or fingerprinted” armed robber, is fleshed out well; supporting characters are less convincing. A few lapse at times into little more than stereotypical hoods.

But an intriguing double-cross double-cross is set up in the course of all this, and Hobbs handles the matador’s cape sleekly. There’s little doubt the Ghost Man will return for an encore. So enjoy this one. And wait for the next one.

Reviewer Bo Petersen is a reporter at The Post and Courier.