Ian Rankin - Shastrix Books

Ian Rankin

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Fleshmarket Close

Fleshmarket Close

29th July 2018

It’s hard to believe I’m fifteen books into the Rebus series - however by this point he and his stories have become like old friends. It’s so easy to dip back in and continue to follow the lives of Rebus and his colleagues as they go about solving the crimes of Edinburgh.

In this book, a series of bodies are uncovered, and one of the key aims is to identify who they were. While the plot is compelling, it’s often other aspects of this series that I enjoy the most, and that’s true again.

In this novel, Rankin makes some quite bold moral statements - although the subject matter of detention centres for immigrants is likely striking a chord with me because of current events in the news, and because I’ve watched a related film in the same week. There’s a lot of stuff to make the reader think, and characters to represent multiple points of view appear through the narrative. To balance this, it also feels like one of the most humour-laden Rebus novels, and I think that certainly helps.

The most telling evidence that I was really enjoying reading this book was that I broke my habit of TV before bed for it - taking it to read outside my normal commuting reading hours. That, at the moment, is the sign of a good book.

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A Question of Blood

A Question of Blood

20th January 2018

Deep into the Rebus series, we see the eponymous detective face a novel crime - two schoolboys murdered and another wounded - which hits close to home when he discovers one of the victims is a long lost relative.

It's quite a complex plot with a lot of different strands weaving through, and writing this a few weeks after reading it, I'm not entirely clear in the end quite how it was all wrapped up. Some of the threads are serial ones though rather than specific to this book, and I think it's fascinating how this series has evolved into something that can have continuing plot lines mixed in with the crime of the week.

The Rebus stories are currently my favourite in the crime genre, with characters that are surprisingly likeable and plots that suggest a great understanding of the realities of police work, without feeling like they’ve been particularly livened up for the purposes of telling a story, like some of the more thriller-esque crime novels that I’ve been reading.

A solid novel in a solid series that I really enjoy reading.

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Buy book: UK
Resurrection Men

Resurrection Men

18th March 2017

Ian Rankin's thirteenth Rebus novel sees the maverick Inspector sent back to the police training college after taking one step of rebellion too far with a conveniently located cup of tea. He ends up in a class of similarly reprobate police officers from around Scotland, set a cold case to investigate.

I think the reason I love the Rebus stories is the balance that Rankin inserts of plot specific to the case in question, and plot that reflects the ongoing life of his characters. The number of returning secondary characters who populate the world and make it feel more real than just featuring random guest characters, all of whose lives move on from one story to the next, who grow and change and evolve alongside Rebus.

The specific plot of this story was interesting if perhaps overly complicated. I’m still not entirely sure I know exactly what was going on, but this may have been Rankin's intention - to focus on the characters and some specific plot points while leaving others shrouded in mystery - perhaps for a future novel, though I suspect not.

I enjoyed this adventure - it took us away slightly from the regular pattern of crime novels, and showed us some realism, mixed in with the fiction, that tells a story in an amazingly rich way.

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The Falls

The Falls

26th May 2016

Book twelve, and somehow Rankin manages to keep Tennis feeling fresh, moving on his personal storyline while providing new and intriguing mysteries that keep getting better and better.

This is the tale of a missing student whose parents have sufficient status too call in the full weight of the Lothian and Borders Police in to hunt her down. As usual, Tennis takes the investigation in his own direction and finds much deeper and more disquieting things to look into.

I think my favourite thing about these books is the way that they are never really about the plot. It's like the mystery itself it's just a framing device to get us back into the lives of the characters and learn what they are up to. And the characters' stories are so rich and fascinating, especially as we are branching out and being aligned with more of them as their relationships shuffle around.

Actually really really good. One of the best in the series and certainly a story I would recommend.

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Buy book: UK
Set in Darkness

Set in Darkness

31st December 2015

The eleventh Inspector Rebus story from Ian Rankin took me a while to get into. Particularly early on I wasn't really sure where my focus was meant to be, and it seemed to have stepped back from where the previous novels had been with the character to being more focussed on the investigation in question and less on the characters.

Later on though I became much more interested in the story as things progressed, and it's actually got a lot more going on than I had initially realised. There are a lot of new characters or characters that are stepping onto centre stage in a way that they hadn't in earlier novels, and it feels like this is a major stepping stone on the way to developments to come in later novels (we shall see).

The plot is intricate, but feels more like a vehicle for the other things that are going on in Rankin's Edinburgh - it often felt like it was taking second place to the world building, although that could be because the various parts of it felt quite discrete.

So in retrospect actually quite a good Rebus novel and one important, it would seem, to the ongoing continuity - just needs the beginning to be got through first.

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Dead Souls

Dead Souls

27th June 2015

The tenth novel is the Rebus series is surprisingly dark, and features a number of intertwining plots that I'm still not quite sure I followed all the way to their conclusions.

The 'main' thread, if you can call it that, sees Rebus assigned to keeping an eye on a recently released murderer who has returned to Edinburgh from the US, and the journalist that he's palled up with.

As with many of this series, the focus I think is really on the character himself, and we get to explore an element from his backstory here that fills us in a bit on some of his motivations, as well as exploring alternative routes his life could have taken - something which I think almost everyone engages in from time to time.

I enjoyed reading this book, and think the complexity of the story really grounds it in a level of realism that I appreciate. I always look forward to reading another novel from this series, and am happy that there are plenty more for me to get to.

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Buy book: UK
The Hanging Garden

The Hanging Garden

11th January 2015

Ian Rankin's series about Inspector Rebus continues to grow better and better. In this, the ninth book, things become personal (again) for the detective as his daughter becomes part of a case (again) and he becomes embroiled in a gang war (again?).

It's been eight months since I read the previous book, which may have been a little long as I felt a little trepidations going in to this one. Although I remembered really loving Black and Blue, the first few chapters of this book didn't suck me in, and in fact confused me quite a lot that I then had to go back and re-read some of them a little later to try to work out what had happened - even after that, I was halfway through before the narrative finally started to make sense. Once I was back to my normal commute after the Christmas break through I found I got really into this book and once again found it absolutely fantastic.

I think what I love the most about the world that Rankin creates is the detail of the texture. It's not just about a policeman investigating a case - so much of what's happened before is still hanging over the character and influencing things. There are recurring characters that don't exist just to set the scene but novel after novel continue to have real effect on character and events. I look forward to this continuing and being built upon further in later novels.

The one thing that I did find niggled is Rankin's tendency to have a gimmick in his stories. This time, Rebus has developed a fixation on song titles, and keeps likening events and things people say to them. To me (and perhaps because I'm the wrong generation to know the music) this felt awkward and weird and distracted from the story rather than enhance it.

Overall though another great book in the series, and one I would definitely recommend. Having said that though I suspect it wouldn't have been so great if I hadn't read the previous books and already grown to enjoy and know the character.

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Other reviewed books

Black and Blue
Let it Bleed
Mortal Causes
The Black Book
Strip Jack
Tooth and Nail
Hide and Seek
Knots and Crosses
The Complaints

Unreviewed books

A Good Hanging
Bleeding Hearts
Blood Hunt
Doors Open
Even Dogs in the Wild
Exit Music
Rather Be The Devil
Saints of the Shadow Bible
Standing in Another Man's Grave
The Impossible Dead
The Naming of the Dead
Witch Hunt

Top books

  1. The Hanging Garden
  2. Black and Blue
  3. Hide and Seek
  4. Let it Bleed
  5. A Question of Blood
  6. Knots and Crosses
  7. Set in Darkness