Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ian Rankin


There was a Starbucks on the corner of Lothian Rd and Bread St.
He’d gone for filter, complaining that he could buy a whole jar for the price of one of the costlier options.
Ian Rankin - The Naming of the Dead - page 121

We’re been devouring Ian Rankin novels since we came to Europe. It just happened that we’d picked one up before we came, and decided to read it while we were away, one after the other, rather than carry too many books. (Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey was the other choice.)
My wife is now on her fifth book in his Inspector Rebus series; I’m waiting for her to finish it (which means I‘ve had nothing to read - in English).
This is what we’ve finished:
Fleshmarket Close - the one we brought with us, and have now left somewhere. The Hanging Garden - we bought secondhand in Florence and then gave to someone in Barcelona. A Question of Blood - picked up in a double edition with The Hanging Garden in Florence.
Dead Souls - bought new at the Barcelona Sants railway station - the only Rankin in the English books on sale.
What’s great about Rankin as a thriller/mystery writer is that he’s literate, and doesn’t write down to his readers. It’s never annoying to read his books because of poor and hackneyed writing. There’s no formula to his books, except perhaps that he always has two investigations going on simultaneously; sometimes they connect, sometimes not, and in one or two of the books there have also been other personal and public investigations. His villains aren’t cut to any mold, and neither are his cops. Rebus’ offsider, Siobhan Clarke, may play a major or minor part in the stories. And even though some of the other officers consider Rebus a ‘dinosaur’, he usually sorts the villain(s) out, one way or the other. They may not always get convicted, but they certainly know that Rebus knows they did the deed.
Rebus himself is a dour character in some respects, though he has a great sense of wit. He’s constantly unsettled, and doesn’t sleep well. His personal relationships suffer badly from his obsession with getting his job done, and his life is often in peril because of the risks he takes. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’s regarded as something of a rogue cop by his superiors, yet they don’t regard him as so much of one that they’ll finally cause him to quit. He’s too useful, and knows too much. Too much for his own good, in some cases, as when he’s so close to one of the villains in order to get even closer to another, that it’s almost uncertain which side he’s playing for. And he’s willing to act a part to get information that isn’t otherwise unobtainable.

John Hannah played Rebus in some of the tv versions of the books. I can't imagine someone less like the character; he's far too young, for a start.
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