I've tried three Rebus books but the punishingly awful prose has convinced me to give up. I'm always amazed every time I read that this series is "excellently written". Here's an example, googled at random:
"Then why are you here?"
"Depends what you mean," Rebus said.
"Mean?" The woman frowned behind her glasses.
"Mean by 'here,' " he explained. "Here in this room? Here in this career? Here on the planet?"
She smiled. Her name was Andrea Thomson. She wasn't a doctor - she'd made that clear at their first meeting. Nor was she a "shrink" or a "therapist." "Career Analysis" was what it had said on Rebus's daily sheet.
2:30-3:15: Career Analysis, Rm 3.16.
With Ms. Thomson. Which had become Andrea at the moment of introduction. Which was yesterday, Tuesday. A "get to know" session, she'd called it.
She was in her late thirties, short and large-hipped. Her hair was a thick mop of blond with some darker streaks showing through. Her teeth were slightly oversized. She was self-employed, didn't work for the police full-time.
"Do any of us?" Rebus had asked yesterday. She'd looked a bit puzzled. "I mean, do any of us work full-time . . . that's why we're here, isn't it?" He'd waved a hand in the direction of the closed door. "We're not pulling our weight. We need a smack on the wrists."
"Is that what you think you need, Detective Inspector?"
He'd wagged a finger. "Keep calling me that and I'll keep calling you 'Doc.' "
"I'm not a doctor," she'd said. "Nor am I a shrink, a therapist, or any other word you've probably been thinking in connection with me."
"Then what are you?"
"I deal with Career Analysis."
Rebus had snorted. "Then you should be wearing a seat belt."
She'd stared at him. "Am I in for a bumpy ride?"
"You could say that, seeing how my career, as you call it, has just careered out of control."
So much for yesterday.
Now she wanted to know about his feelings. How did he feel about being a detective?
"I like it."
"All of me." Fixing her with a smile.
She smiled back. "I meant -"
"I know what you meant." He looked around the room. It was small, utilitarian. Two chrome-framed chairs either side of a teak-veneered desk. The chairs were covered in some lime-colored material. Nothing on the desk itself but her legal-sized lined pad and her pen. There was a heavy-looking satchel in the corner; Rebus wondered if his file was in there. A clock on the wall, calendar below it. The calendar had come from the local firehouse. A length of net curtaining across the window.
There you go: a whole page or two without an interesting line in the whole dreary thing. The dialogue is as cringingly unfunny as it always is, and if there's no wit in the writing, what is there to keep you reading? Or at least, if you can't write jokes, don't try to write them. This is a fairly typical example of Rankin, and 300 pages of such dullness is a real struggle to wade through. Unsurprising, second-hand, witless...is this the kind of prose that a best-seller is made of? Perhaps, inevitably, yes. But at least let's not pretend that it's well-written or perceptive.
And your comments above prove that you just don't get it.
Although most of these stories can be read alone without going to the beginning, to be honest I think it is necessary. Rankin portrays Rebus' personality as hard nosed and cynical, which Is the image Rebus himself wants to protect on the outside but with an open, razor sharp mind and ability to think outside the box.
This is hard thing to portray in writing and I think he does it in a very good way, but in order to truly appreciate it you have to know the character and know his state of mind taking into consideration the situation he is in. If you have not read the series from the beginning and are unwilling to immerse yourself into the character then you will miss out.
I did start from the beginning, read the first three hoping they'd get better, never did. It's difficult to immerse yourself in a character who may be hardnosed and cynical but who never has an interesting thought or line of dialogue in three books. And I didn't even mention that terrible stylistic trick of working song titles into the narrative...
I think that the first three books were very promising. The fourth was a drag, not a single sympathetic character on could care for. Things got slightly better in the 5th book, with Siobhan Clarke and Big Ger coming onto the scen but each of these, compared to the first 5 books by John Harvey in his Resnick series, is flawed and in book four and five a tad boring. The only reason I can think of Rankin outselling Harvey is that a memorable TV sereis was made out of Rankin's books. It's the morse factor. I'll continue to the bitter end with Rankin but I don't find the eagerness I felt reading Harvey.
I have to agree re: Harvey vs Rankin. Harvey's Resnick series is vastly superior to the Rebus saga, though I'm lead to believe (having not seen them) that the TV programmes made from the first two Resnick books were entirely UNmemorable. I guess it must account for why Rankin outsells Harvey (and Hurley, for that matter, who is, in my opinion, better than both of them).