2020 Alphabet Soup Author Challenge – Ian Rankin – In a House of Lies

Genre: British Detective, Scottish Fiction

Narrative Style: Third person from multiple viewpoints.

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2018

Format: Paperback

Reading Challenges: 2020 Alphabet soup Author Challenge.

I always enjoy a Rebus story. This one was a Christmas present and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. On the whole, I wasn’t disappointed – as you can see from my rating – but it has to be said, I’m not sure how long Rankin can keep this up for.

When a body turns up in the boot of a car and it turns out to be the body of Stuart Bloom, Rebus knows that he could be in a lot of trouble. He was part of the original inquiry when Stuart disappeared. To say it hadn’t gone well would be an understatement. On top of that, Siobhan Clarke is receiving anonymous phone calls and has had graffiti sprayed on her front door.

This is a tale of the ways policing has changed. Although the original inquiry was in 2006, it feels much older. Stuart Bloom was gay and that had a huge effect on the original enquiry with homophobia being just one of the many problems. There are cops taking backhanders, working for shady businessmen in their spare time as well as cops like Rebus, trying desperately to hide everyone else’s lies. Interviews and meetings were fabricated. All of which is now being looked at very closely by Malcolm Fox, a man who Rebus has had run ins with before.

As ever, there is a lot of moral ambiguity in Rankin’s writing. We want the good guys to win obviously but Rebus does not always follow the rule book. For me, that is his main charm. Siobhan, so long under his wing, is similarly likely to follow her own tune. So the question is whether you allow for their breaking of the rules because it is in the name of justice or believe that they are tainted by their actions. Certainly the right people get their comeuppance but whether Rebus should get into more trouble than he does is another question entirely.

My one complaint would be that as Rebus gets older, it gets harder and harder for Rankin to find a place for him within the police force. He is very much a civilian and, at times, he feels shoe horned into the narrative. I’m not sure how many more times Rankin will be able to manage it. Which is a shame but both Clarke is an interesting character. It may be time to give her the lead.

 

Full House Reading Challenge – The Falls – Ian Rankin

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Genre: Detective

Narrative Style: Third person from a variety of points of view

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2001unknown-1

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: A student disappears and the obvious target is her boyfriend. But isn’t that a bit too obvious? Rebus thinks so. The mystery deepens when it appears that she was playing an online game which lead her to the place where she died. When a strange doll in a coffin shows up near the home of the missing girl, Rebus becomes obsessed with finding other coffins that have appeared in the past. Is this case linked to other disappearances some 20 years ago? 

Reading Challenges: The Full House Reading Challenge: Genre Page Turner

This was a bit of a catch up read. The first Rebus book I read was right in the middle of the series and at first I just read whichever books I could get my hands on. Although I have read the first six in order, I have also read the last three. So rather than read the whole lot in order again, I am now in the process of plugging gaps. Of which this is one. I rationed myself a bit – I read the previous book – Set in Darkness  – before Christmas and deliberately did not let myself read this straightaway. As a result I was excited about reading it.

It did not disappoint. John Rebus is an interesting character who never tires in his efforts of self-sabotage. He becomes so obsessed with an old case where strange coffins containing dolls appeared shortly after the disappearance of a young woman that he misses more obvious clues to who the murderer was in his current case.

Siobhan was also playing lone wolf this time, showing that it may be true that she spends to much time with Rebus. It is interesting that there seem to be few options for her – she can either play the male game like Gill Templar and gain promotion or she can be an outsider like Rebus. As with Rebus, her keeping her information to herself could have gone badly wrong. However, it is not like things work out all that much better for characters who do toe the line such as Grant Hood.

The history of Edinburgh is one again used to good effect. The discussion of Burke and Hare and the strange Arthor’s Seat dolls gave the novel a macabre aspect which was very enjoyable. It is this element, as well as Rankin’s clear love for the geoegraphy of Scotland, that raises this series above the usual.

In the end, there were some cliches. The last minute rescue of Rebus’ girlfriend, the evil pathologist and the revelation of the murderer were all overused tropes. Having said that, this book was first published in 2001 and it is quite feasible that they weren’t so tired then. There is a proliferation of detective stories these days, both in print and on TV so it is bound to feel as if some stories have been told before. And even if they were already cliches at the time, I am willing to let Rankin off the hook because the writing was exceptional.

Books Read in 2015 – 18. Saints of the Shadow Bible – Ian Rankin

Genrre: Detective, Police procedural

Narrative Style: Third Person from various points of view21283302

Rating 5/5

Published: 2013

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: Due to a change in the double jeopardy law, an old case is being re-opened. An old case that involves Rebus’ old colleagues. There is suspicion of wrong-doing and they all swore an oath that they wouldn’t tell. Rebus finds himself caught between his old workmates and Malcolm Fox from the Complaints who is determined to get to the truth. 

I must admit, I didn’t love the first of the Rebus in retirement books, Standing in another man’s grave. It wasn’t terrible but it didn’t inspire me to read this one as soon as it came out. Finally, I gave in and bought it with my birthday Amazon voucher in November. It was so much better, I was sorry I hadn’t read it sooner.

I haven’t read any of The Complaints books but Fox has featured – albeit on the periphery – in the Rebus novels before so I was aware of him. He was an excellent foil for Rebus – a rule follower and a reformed alcoholic, he showed up Rebus’ faults in all their glory. Neither man really trusts the other but they manage to create a successful working relationship all the same. Giving a little of Fox’s past, Rankin shows how similar the men really are and how they have attempted to solve the similar problems that life has thrown at them in different ways. I would certainly be tempted to read some of the Fox novels although I’m not sure how well he would work as a lead character without the alternative of Rebus as relief from his uptightness.

The past and the future well and truly crash in this novel as Rankin shows the difference between policing then and policing now. It goes some way to show how Rebus has developed his own moral code and although he doesn’t always follow the rules, the reader is generally on his side because he isn’t just wantonly corrupt. There is a line drawn between him and the other Saints being investigated although it isn’t always clear exactly where it is. Rankin shows how easy it is for power to corrupt and how dangerous it is when anyone takes the law into their own hands but he does not make simple moral statements. He shows the complexity of any moral decision.

As ever, the twists and turns of the plot and main plot are not easy to unravel and keep you turning the pages. Rankin is a master at giving just enough to keep you curious but not quite enough to work it out fully. A real pager turner, I couldn’t put it down.

 

Books Read in 2014 57. The Flood by Ian Rankin

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Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery

Narrative Style: Third Person, Chronologicaldownload (17)

Rating: 2/5

Published:1986

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: As a result of an accident as a child, Mary Miller has always had pure white hair. It has earned her the reputation of being a witch and she is something of an outcast in the Scottish town where she lives. Years later, she and her son Sandy are still on the outskirts of the town and looked on with a mixture of fear and pity by the other town folk.

Challenges: TBR Challenge

Time on Shelf: A good couple of years. I picked it up because I was curious. Rebus is one of my favourite literary characters. I wanted to see if Rankin could do anything else. And then I got a little nervous about whether I would like it or not. 

I was right to be nervous. This did not appeal to me at all. I feel a bit guilty saying this as if I was insulting a close friend. I really like Rankin’s Rebus books and I really wanted to like this but it just didn’t happen.

It wasn’t that it was badly written. If anything it was over-written, trying a bit hard to be literary. It felt as if Rankin was yet to find his voice and sometimes the prose was a bit tortured. Some of the descriptions of the area were reminiscent of the wonderful descriptions of Edinburgh in the Rebus books and some of the characters were ambiguous as to whether they were good or bad, a theme that often crops up in the Rebus books but this wasn’t enough to bring the story to life.

The plot is stretched too thin, I think. The story is interesting enough and there are hints of what is to come but is not enough to keep the reader’s interest. It is a slight story, really, concerning the possible father of Sandy and Sandy’s liaison with a gypsy girl living in the old manor house.

The ending was also disappointing. Although loose ends were wrapped up, it brought no satisfaction. I’m glad that this wasn’t the first Rankin I read as I am certain I would never have read another.

 

 

 

Day 5 – Comfort book – Pratchett and Rankin

When I am feeling a bit low, I tend to look for reading that is either going to make me laugh or that is going to be nicely tied up at the end. There are two things that I periodically turn when I am in this mood – one of the many Discworld books, guaranteed  to lift your spirits or detective fiction of some description which would give me a puzzle to solve and hopefully leave me with the correct answer.

 

The next task for me was to decide which Discworld book to talk about. This was stupidly difficult. As far as I am concerned, they are all good so it wasn’t even a question of eliminating the ones that were bad. Eventually, it came down to favourite characters – and that came down to Death. Of the

reaper-man-1books which feature Death as a main character, Reaper Man is my favourite. In this, Death goes miss and lives as a human called Bill Door. Appropriately, he becomes a reaper of corn. There is a wonderful scene where he becomes aware of the nature of time, something he has never had to worry about before. He cannot imagine how humans manage to live with clocks in their houses, quietly ticking off the seconds of their all too brief (from the point of view of an immortal) lives. As Death is no longer doing his job, life force starts to build up and Ankh-Morpork becomes home to a number of undead – vampires, zombies and old wizards who fail to die when they are supposed to – all of which add to the humour.

This is a novel that manages to be both comic and profound. It tackles big ideas without them seeming big or pretentious. It makes you think about life and death without being the least bit depressing.

 

The other type of novel I like when I feel a bit under the weather is detective fiction. Although I have read Rendell, Kellerman, Patterson and others, I find that Ian Rankin’s Rebus just resonates the most with me. My favourite

question of blood

Rebus Novel is A Question of Blood. The murder takes place in a school; a shooting by a loner who then kills himself. I like this because it appears an open and shut case but, of course, it isn’t. As ever, Rebus’ personal life gets him into trouble and is as much a concern as the case he is working on when it seems he may have committed a crime in order to help DS Siobhan Clarke.

I try not to read books that I have read before especially when there are so many books waiting patiently on my to-read list but there are times when it is comforting to know exactly what you are going to get. And both Pratchett and Rankin never let you down.

Day 1 – Book series I wish had gone on longer – Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series.

Until recently the most obvious answer to this question would have been Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series. John Rebus is my favourite fictional detective because he is difficult, exasperating and above all anti-authority. His moral code is highly personal which ensures that he does not play by the rules much to the annoyance of his superiors and the entertexit musicainment of the reader. Even more importantly, he had excellent taste in music and Rankin litters the books with musical references as should be apparent by some of the titles – Dead Souls, The Hanging Garden, Let it Bleed, Black and Blue and, of course, Exit Music. And then there is the fantastic Edinburgh and Fife locations, so evocative that they seem like a character in themselves.
In what was the final book of the series, Exit Music, Rebus retired. I admit, even at the time of reading, this seemed unsatisfactory. Rebus is one of those people who would be lost on retirement, who die three weeks after or turn up at work more often than when he worked there. It may that Rankin agreed with this as there is now a new book, Standing in Another Man’s Grave which I am yet to read. It may be that it was always the case that another book would be written. The ending of Exit Music is open to a continuation of the story. It matters not. I am certainly looking forward to reading about the next stage in rebus’ life.
I haven’t read that many other series. Harry Potter, I feel ended when it should. The only way to continue that would be with the next generation of Weasleys and Potters. An adult Harry Potter just wouldn’t be the same. Similarly, His Dark Materials had a pleasing ending and a completely new scenario would have to be invented in order for Lyra to have an new adventure. I love the Game of Thrones series but as yet they do not look like finishing.