“Caedmon’s Song” by Peter Robinson

Book Title: Caedmon’s Song  

Author: Peter Robinson  

Caedmon’s Song is a compelling page-turner possessing all the elements of an absorbing psychological thriller. Despite the unique and suitably haunting setting, carefully crafted characters and eloquent prose, Robinson fails to connect these elements effectively, however.

Consequently the latter part of the novel crawls to a disappointing conclusion. It begins promisingly enough with the introduction of Kirsten, the survivor of a vicious attack by a serial killer. She is left disfigured and unable to bear children. The engrossing aspect of Kirsten’s story is her quest to unlock memories of the assault, trapped in what is described as a “dark cloud” in her mind. Her story is intermingled with that of Martha who travels to historic Whitby on the English coast. She poses as an author doing research but has a hidden agenda; to intuitively discover the whereabouts of a ‘mystery man’. The reader soon discovers that Kirsten and Martha are one and the same. At this point the mystery ends and is replaced by methodical, often predictable storytelling.

Robinson’s use of language salvages the weak plotline. He offers vivid imagery of the English countryside, in particular fishing villages. His insight extends to the attitudes and idiosyncrasies of ‘small town’ folk.

Robinson’s meticulous portrayal of Whitby doesn’t slow the novel’s progression; in fact it sustains the vitality of the novel when the story occasionally stagnates.

The uniqueness of Caedmon’s Song lies in the focus on a victim’s perspective. Incorporating the psychological impact presents a broader palette for plot development than calculated police investigations and technical forensics. Unfortunately, the unimaginative ending falls short of the story’s immense potential.

Probably best known for the Inspector Banks series, Robinson involves the reader in this easy-flowing story that is sometimes gruesome, with moments of nail-biting suspense. In the process he comments on cutting edged social concerns, i.e. what happens when victims of abuse turn to become abusers? In that sense, this becomes a truly distinctive ‘crime thriller’.

Caedmon’s Song by Peter Robinson is published in Australia by Pan Macmillan Australia.