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Three Ian Rankin novels

For reasons which will eventually become clear, we have amassed a large proportion of the writings of Ian Rankin, and I started with the first three Rebus novels on the way back from hols.

August Books 42) Knots and Crosses, by Ian Rankin

The first Rebus book introduces us to our hero, who has a Past - two Pasts, in fact: a traumatic military experience in the SAS, and a failed marriage. The two collide in spectacular fashion; it's not so much a detective novel as a psychological account of Rebus working through his own experiences. Both Rankin and Rebus also seem to have a fascination with the intersection between police procedurality and media manipulation. All set against a richly detailed Edinburgh. A good start.

August Books 43) Hide and Seek, by Ian Rankin

I also enjoyed Hide and Seek, which expanded one of the themes from Knots and Crosses - Rebus' relationship with his non-policeman brother - for a complex web of pairs of police/non-police brothers whose relationships cross the boundary of legality. It's also the most political of the first three novels, in that Rebus' investigation into the lonely death of a drug addict takes him into the highest echelons of Edinburgh society (there is a scene featuring the Temptation of John Rebus by the devils of social status). The ending is rather unsatisfactory for Rebus but not for the reader.

August Books 44) Tooth and Nail, by Ian Rankin

The third book worked least well for me, taking Rebus off his home patch to London to investigate a serial killer. The London of Tooth and Claw seemed improbably small, with everyone turned out to be related to each other; its population also appeared to be entirely white. The subplot with a forensic psychologist who was not what she seemed was not very plausible. And the solution to the actual mystery was more suited to an Agatha Christie country house murder fantasy than to the gritty urban narrative that Rankin was probably trying to write.

So I am adding Rankin to my monthly reading list, taking the books more or less in order. It is interesting to read a totally different take on the setting also used by Charles Stross and Ken MacLeod (though of course set in the present day rather than a future independent Scotland).


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2009 08:48 am (UTC)
I read all these last year - I don't think they did as much as I thought they did in terms of wrestling with a conscience in the tradition of the so-called caledonian anti-syzygy; it is there just not as prominent. I suspect Rankin looks back more to James Hogg and the Justified Sinner (on whom I am rusty but I clearly need to add to the list) than to Jeckyl and Hyde, that most Scottish of London gothic novel(la)s. I did enjoy them, though.

It's worth reading them in order, I think, which is not so true of the Dalziel and Pascoe books.
Aug. 24th, 2009 10:36 am (UTC)
I started with Dead Souls (I'd been away from reading mysteries for years & it was everywhere, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about) and consequently got them in random order from the library.

Although they all stand up on their own, I do think there'd be added value to reading them in order.
Aug. 24th, 2009 11:08 am (UTC)
The books tend to be him going into or leaving a relationship, and some of the minor female characters become more major as they are promoted or become more Rebus like. There's also a Big Bad who needs to be tracked and a couple of relatives.

It strikes me that they get more political - especially with the Scottish parliament and then G8/7/7.
Aug. 24th, 2009 11:09 am (UTC)
I have to admit I don't know about his books, but I know he's a huge Jeckyll and Hyde fan.
Aug. 24th, 2009 11:09 am (UTC)
Tooth and Nail is a bit of a disappointment. I think it's heavily influenced by a James Ellroy novel in the La quartet. I had read the two in close proximity and Rankin was wanting in comparison. For me, his novels really kick off come Black and Blue - at that point he really starts looking at the bigger political and social aspects of Scotland.
Aug. 24th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
I don't think he even starts to hit his stride until the fourth one, though there is always the appeal of Rebus himself, at least for those of us who secretly want to win by losing, and breaking the rules.
Aug. 24th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
He does have something in common with Stross, MacLeod and M-less Banks (as well as Brookmyre); not just the setting, the attitude as well.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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