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Watchman Hardcover – 8 Jan 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; New edition edition (8 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075286033X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752860336
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.3 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,052,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987, and the Rebus books are now translated into thirty-six languages and are bestsellers worldwide.

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers' Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America's celebrated Edgar Award for Resurrection Men. He has also been shortlisted for the Anthony Award in the USA, won Denmark's Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Hull and the Open University.

A contributor to BBC2's Newsnight Review, he also presented his own TV series, Ian Rankin's Evil Thoughts. Rankin is a number one bestseller in the UK and has received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

Here are the Inspector Rebus stories in series order:

Knots and Crosses
Hide and Seek
Tooth and Nail
Strip Jack
The Black Book
Mortal Causes
Let it Bleed
Black and Blue
The Hanging Garden
Dead Souls
Set in Darkness
The Falls
Resurrection Men
A Question of Blood
Fleshmarket Close
The Naming of the Dead
Exit Music

Short stories:
A Good Hanging - 12 Inspector Rebus mysteries
Beggars Banquet (non-Rebus short stories)

Here are the Jack Harvey novels in series order:

Witch Hunt
Bleeding Hearts
Blood Hunt

Product Description

Amazon Review

While Rendell, James and Walters jostle for the position of Britain's Crime Queen, things are much more straightforward when it comes to male writers: the appearance of Ian Rankin's early thriller Watchman is a reminder that Rankin is securely at the top of the tree in terms of sales, and pretty near the upper echelons in critical acclaim. His series featuring the troubled DI Rebus, with its brilliantly realised urban Scottish settings, has consolidated a powerful reputation, although later entries in the sequence may have lacked the sharpness of their predecessors.

Watchman is something of a collector's item among Rankin enthusiasts--out of print for 15 years, this stand-alone thriller (not featuring the doughty Rebus) has been changing hands on the Internet for very large amounts--but now it's possible to catch up with one of Rankin's most intriguing books at a reasonable price.

Miles Flint is low-level operative in the world of espionage, with a watching brief that satisfies him perfectly; he's not a man who craves more active duty. But IRA bombs are wreaking havoc on the British mainland, and Miles finds himself with all kinds of problems. His professional career is in trouble, as is his marriage--his involvement with a seductive Irish woman is problematical, and his attempts to avoid a persistent newspaperman are failing. Miles is sent to Belfast, where he finds that his job is much more than merely watching people; the stakes are very high (UK security being the trump card now), and his life has become a ploy in a dangerous game.

There are shades here of two of Rankin's illustrious predecessors in the thriller genre, Gerald Seymour and Len Deighton, but Rankin (even at this early stage of his career) was very much his own man. Miles is a distinctive and conflict-filled protagonist--very different from Rebus, though sharing a messy private life--and the action is handled with pulse-racing panache. The espionage genre was not to prove Rankin's métier, but this sole effort is essential for Rankin fans--and that means most of us. --Barry Forshaw


Very impressive...If you're worried you'll miss the comfortable presence of Jack Rebus, don't - this is totally involving stuff, delivered with the kind of panache that hallmarks the Edinburgh-set thrillers (Barry Forshaw DAILY EXPRESS)

What is impressive in the novel is Rankin's ability to handle a complicated plot, so that in the end its various strands cohere (Allan Massie THE SCOTSMAN)

WATCHMAN is one for Rankin aficionados, interesting in itself, but also revealing as to a direction he might have taken with his fiction, following his first novel, KNOTS AND CROSSES, which introduced us to Inspector Rebus (Keith Jeffery TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT)

A riveting read that will have you turning page after page until there are none left (Alex Gordon PETERBOROUGH TELEGRAPH)

A curiosity from the pen of Ian Rankin: a hardback re-issue of an early, pre-Rebus novel. Though it's not a bad read, it shows he has improved (Allan Laing GLASGOW HERALD)

This splendid piece of espionage fiction has not worn badly with age, nor does it seem the work of a yet immature talent. Brilliantly subdued, it has the air of a le Carre...Atmospheric and subtle, Watchman shows just how long Rankin has been our best genre novelist (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Intriguing to compare it with his Rebus books. It's less introspective, but still a must (GLASGOW EVE TIMES)

Watchman is of its time, of course, but it moves along at a fair old clip and shows Rankin to be as adept at writing thrillers as he is at putting together more meditative crime stories (Peter Gutteridge OBSERVER)

This is a biting and superbly wrought thriller that will enthrall (WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY)

more than holds its own among recent spy thriller fare, despite its age (Mark Evans IRISH EXAMINER)

Essential for Rankin fans - and that means most of us (CRIME TIME)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Miles Flint wore glasses: they were his only distinguishing feature. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter Symonds on 6 Sept. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Watchman is further proof that publishers are influenced by sales rather than quality. As Ian Rankin himself admits, he found it very hard to get a publisher for Watchman in 1988 and he certainly couldn't live off his profits. However with nearly 20 bestsellers under his belt his publisher has no problem printing it again now.
Watchman is perhaps slighly dated... its set in the late 80's when the IRA bombing campaigns against London where at their height. The main character Miles Flint is tasked with "watching" an Arab assasin and also supervising the observation of an IRA bomb making cell. The winding & complicated plot ties the apparently unlinked a dead Israeli "diplomat", an Arab assasin, an IRA cell, a gay MP & into one coherent story ultimating revolving around a power struggle within MI5. It also brings in a few characters that Rebus fans will instantly recognise- journalist Jim Stevens and masseur "the organ grinder".
Watchman is not as good as the Rebus books. Miles Flint doesn't have anything like the depth of character of the Scottish cop. Likewise the locations jump too much & lack the gritty realism of Rebus's Edinburgh. Likwise the plot is slow to get going & its not obvious how the various threads tie together making the book initially quite slow & confusing. That said its still worth reading, mainly because when it does come together it REALLY comes together in an explosive ending. Anyone who enjoyed the three novels Rankin wrote as "Jack Harvey" will be quite satisfied with this.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Booksthatmatter on 14 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
The amazon review of this likens it to Len Deighton, but Rankin was clearly much more inspired by the ambivalent, grey-ish men of Le Carre and Greene. In fact the first part of the book, where a series of intelligence operations go suspiciously wrong and MI6 seems plagued by a mole, is pure Smiley's People and feels derivative. But then the writer Rebus fans will know starts to emerge from the pages and as Miles Flint, the central hardly-man, gets sent to Ireland to be disposed of, the book grows into something more original.
It's always interesting to look back at a writer's early works, and Rankin is one who has consistantly grown and developed rather than a flash and burn writer peaking young. Watchman shows signs of all that is good in Rankin and at least the elements that are derivative are drawn from sources of the calibre of Greene and Le Carre. It's a sign of Rankin's youth at the time of writing that he allowed himself to make Flint's cuckolding so much like Smiley, and the big boss so much like control at the end of his days, but it doesn't diminish the pure thriller pleasure to be had. I also think it shows that Rankin himself knew Rebus to be a more original creation and chose to develop that series instead of going more deeply into spook central.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Planning this review in my head, before I’d even begun the book, I’d expected to find myself saying things like, though good, Watchman clearly demonstrates how Rankin’s talent has evolved, developed and grown in the many years since this book was first published. Things like that. Sentences which basically said that this was a good enough early effort, but was not to the standard of his later stuff. When reading it, I found those preconceptions blown away, as this is, if spy novels are your thing, is a great book. True, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as his Rebus books, but that’s probably just down to preference, as this is, technically speaking at least, just as good some of his other stuff.
A summary of the plot is probably not really necessary. I shall just let it be said that it concerns one Miles Flint, a “watchman” for MI5 (i.e. a man of observation, not of action) and some explosive events…
As Rankin himself notes in his new introduction, the pace of the book is very different from his Rebus stuff. It clips along with a great speed, switching from scene to scene brilliantly. The result is, of course, a fast little book to read, which is admirably spare: even though it’s quick and with not a superfluous word, though, the writing is rich and clear, the plotting complex, if a little sharp. Miles Flint is also a great character. Similar to Rebus in many ways, he is still distinctive enough to be fresh and interesting. Like Rebus, he has that x factor, although he is less a man of action, more a pensive, laid-back observer. Too, his fascination with beetles makes for a brilliant spin, and some very effective little metaphors!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 July 2010
Format: Paperback
As a fan of both crime fiction and Scottish fiction, I've always been meaning to give Ian Rankin another go. Years ago, I read his first Rebus book, Knots And Crosses, didn't really care for it, and never returned to him. This republication of his 1988 espionage novel (his second book) caught my eye, so I thought I'd try him again. The story revolves around Miles Flint, a blandly unmemorable mid-level surveillance expert (aka "Watchman") for MI5 (Britain's rough equivalent to the FBI).

When the story starts, he's involved in the surveillance of a suspected Arab hit man that goes wrong. Something about it niggles at him, and he starts his own private internal investigation of the foulup, while being detailed to watch a suspected IRA cell. (The story takes place in the midst of an IRA bombing campaign in London, something that didn't really happen in earnest until the early '90s.) The first 2/3 of the book are achingly tedious, as Miles is buffeted by the treacherous waters of departmental politics, not to mention his own rocky marriage.

Things pick up a bit when Miles is sent to Ireland to observe the arrest of some IRA members, a scenario which the reader will have seen the perils of well before Miles. From there, things get a little more interesting, as Miles is forced out of his normal shell to save his skin. This transformation isn't totally credible, hewing too closely to the fantasy of the everyman who is able to tap hidden inner courage, cunning, and skill in a time of great need. On the whole, it's neither thoughtful or entertaining enough for me to recommend it. I suppose Rankin fans may find more to like, but it didn't work for me.
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