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.

 

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Books Read in 2014 – 55. The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

Genre: Detective Fiction, Historical Fictiondownload (15)

Narrative Structure: First Person Narrative, chronological

Rating: 3/5

Published: 2012

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: New York is overrun with Irish immigrants and bad feelings towards Catholics are running high. Timothy Wilde has lost everything in the Great New York Fire so he reluctantly agrees when his older brother, Valentine, gets him a position as one of New York’s newly appointed police officers. When it appears that someone is murdering Irish children and leaving them with their chest opened like a cross, Timothy is determined to solve the mystery even if it puts his life in danger. 

I’m not sure what is was about Timothy Wilde’s first person narrative but from the very first I found it difficult to get on with. It wasn’t difficult to read and the use of Flash – the criminal slang of the era – gave it authenticity. Maybe I just prefer my detectives a little more hard-boiled and edgy. Timothy just wasn’t a very interesting character while all others around him shone a bit more brightly – particularly his brother.

The story is exciting and that carried me through. In the beginning, Timothy finds Bird Daly, covered in blood and clearly frightened. He begins slowly to unravel her lies and is led to the madam, Silkie Marsh and her child prostitutes. When his investigations lead him to a mass grave of nineteen children, it seems that a serial killer is on the loose. With anti-catholic feeling running high, New York becomes volatile and rioters take to the streets.

Timothy proves himself to be an excellent policeman, sharp eyed and persistent, putting clues together and following leads that no one else has spotted. This contrasts with his stupidity in other areas, particularly his personal life. He completely misunderstands both his brother, Valentine, and his love-interest, Mercy Underhill so much so that he is in danger of ruining Mercy’s life. I’m not entirely sure that I was convinced by the character of Mercy either but she did at least have more than one side to her personality.

The story twists and turns and in the end, nothing is as you might have expected. I liked the ending and the way that it was worked out, using the then new techniques of forensic detective work. The historical detail was believable and helped create a New York that was dark and disturbing. However, I was pleased to be rid of Timothy Wilde, particularly when he is so drippy over Mercy even though it is likely his love will never be returned. It is a shame. I’m sure there is interest to be had in the books that follow but I wouldn’t want to spend another minute in his company.