I've been getting rid of books that have reprints of my stories. Need the room. For some reason I picked up a Best Of from the early 90s and while looking at the table of contents saw a Peter Robinson story. I keep hearing how good he is so I sat down and read it and I'll tell you I want to kill the guy out of pure jealousy.
"Innocence" is the story of a drab man in a drab office world who has a few mostly unsatisfactiory sexual alliances with women he doesn't feel emotionally close to. He goes out of town to visit a friend but because of his witless secretary he doesn't get the message that the friend's mother has died and that the friend has rushed away. So the man finds himself stranded in a drab, rainy little English town that doesn't like strangers. His sole pleasure here is his dreamy glimpses of pretty school girls of fifteen and sixteen. He wonders if these feelings are proper. Then decides they're normal. People stare at him as if he's a beast. A real threat.
When he returns home he finds two detectives at his door. One of the girls he admired (though would never think of apporaching) was found dead. Ultimately he is charged with her murder and put on trial. So many things he considered innocent--he likes soft core video in an age of very hard core, wanting romance more than sex; a remark he made about high school girls said to a friend from work who echoed his feelings; doing what a woman wanted thim o now described by her under oath as all his idea--all innocence lost.
When I say that this is Ruth Rendell territory I don't mean to take anything away from Robinson or his story. I consider Rendell the finest writer of crime fiction in the world. But Robinson puts his own stamp on the piece and does so with a grace and power that are stunning.
Right after I finished the story I drove to the bookstore and picked up my first Peter Robinson novel. Long overdue.