Picks and Pans Review: Playing with Fire

updated 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/08/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Peter Robinson
THRILLER
CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Get ready to wrangle some of the most slippery red herrings in detective fiction. Each time you think you're a step ahead of the author, Robinson jumps in with a jaw-dropping—and usually credible—twist.

Playing with Fire is the most accomplished of the Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks series. Banks and his partner and ex-lover, Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot, are assigned to sort out a series of arson attacks in Yorkshire, England. In the meantime Banks, a solid cop, tries to make sense of his feelings toward Annie and his ex-wife and her new baby, as Annie embarks on an affair with a smooth art-forgery expert. Along the arsonist's trail, the paths of these realistically flawed and interesting characters merge. Robinson is incapable of writing a dull sentence. Playing with Fire is so vivid that even those who aren't usually fans of procedural thrillers will feel their fingers burning as the pages fly.

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