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66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good place to start
I was recommended to Rankin's works by a very well read friend of mine, who, fortunately, warned me that the Rebus novels improve with each subsequent book.
Having now read the next three books I can confirm that that statement is true, but I would strongly advise that anyone wanting to 'get into' Rebus should most definately read them in order as...
Published on 26 Jan. 2006 by copperwasherking

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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The First Book in the Rebus Series
'Knots and Crosses' is the first book in Rankin's Rebus series. Several young girls have been kidnapped and murdered in Edinburgh and the murderer seems intent on getting Rebus to pursue him by sending Rebus cryptic notes. All the notes contain either a knotted piece of twine or two crossed matches. To solve the case, Rebus must confront aspects of his past that he would...
Published on 3 July 2007 by Sarah Durston


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66 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good place to start, 26 Jan. 2006
This review is from: Knots And Crosses (Paperback)
I was recommended to Rankin's works by a very well read friend of mine, who, fortunately, warned me that the Rebus novels improve with each subsequent book.
Having now read the next three books I can confirm that that statement is true, but I would strongly advise that anyone wanting to 'get into' Rebus should most definately read them in order as there are themes that run through the books, and you really do start to build up a very good mental picture of the inspectors life, loves, work colleagues and family.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The First Book in the Rebus Series, 3 July 2007
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knots And Crosses (Paperback)
'Knots and Crosses' is the first book in Rankin's Rebus series. Several young girls have been kidnapped and murdered in Edinburgh and the murderer seems intent on getting Rebus to pursue him by sending Rebus cryptic notes. All the notes contain either a knotted piece of twine or two crossed matches. To solve the case, Rebus must confront aspects of his past that he would much rather forget.

The introduction to the novel is really interesting as Rankin reflects on his work and points out the flaws that he now sees. It's fascinating to watch the progression of a novelist from their own perspective.

I liked the novel very much. It's short and pacey, but I think that the character develops much further in later novels and is more psychologically and intellectually realistic later on which is why I've only given it three stars. Nevertheless, recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good start to a fantastic series, 25 July 2005
This is the first book Ian Rankin's inspector Rebus series. I am a big fan of the whole series of books (which now runs to over a dozen books) and this is a good book, although it is far from the best book in the series.
The series...each of the books in the Rebus series is self-contained (in the sense that it deals with a case or group of cases) but there is significant character development through the series and it is best to read them in order (obviously starting at with this one). Ian Rankin is much better writer than the average crime writer. He has a number of strengths that make the Rebus series the most enjoyable contemporary crime series. Rankin's strengths include strong story telling, the ability to conjure up imagery quickly and effectively, strong characterisation and an excellent sense of place (he is particularly interested in exposing the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh). He writes well and does not rely on local patois or dialect (unlike Irvine Welch for example) - this has the advantage of making the books easier to read but it does lead to the sense of place occasionally faltering. For me, he is the best British crime writer, almost in the same league as Thomas Harris and James Ellroy. One of the strengths of the series is the central character, John Rebus. He is an interesting, flawed man - with a failed marriage behind him, a rather distant teenage daughter he barely knows, a traumatic military career (ultimately in the SAS) and something of a drinking problem. He is a curmudgeon - he has problems with dealing with authority but also expects absolute respect from the people below him in the hierarchy. He is not a team player, he likes to work alone and keep secrets. Despite all these flaws his passion, drive and humanity make him a sympathetic character.
The book... Knots and Crosses does not display all of Rankin's strengths (in some way he was still finding his feet as an author). Apart from Rebus himself the characterisation is a little sparse and even with Rebus there is so much information to introduce that sometimes it gets in the way of the story. Like all crime writers Rankin flirts with cliché and formula. As he matures as a writer he gets better at avoiding it but he there are quite a few in his novel: serial killers, placing Rebus and his family in jeopardy. Despite these flaws this is still a very readable and enjoyable book and it will get you started on one of the best series of crime novels available.
Note that there is an omnibus version, "Rebus: The Early Years", incorporating the first three novels (Knots & Crosses, Hide & Seek and Tooth & Nail) available.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knots and Crosses, 8 Feb. 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knots And Crosses (Inspector Rebus Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Set in Edinburgh, 1985, this is the first novel featuring Detective Sergeant John Rebus. In the tradition of flawed detectives, he is divorced and has a stilted relationship with his daughter, Sammy and a distant one with his only brother, Michael. Living in a flat, his mattress on the floor and books piled all around him, Rebus is a rather grumpy character who both drinks and smokes too much. Leaving the army (specifically the SAS Special Assignment Group) he has had a breakdown before joining the police force. However, many of the memories that he has tried to block out are about to come back and haunt him.

Girls in the city are being abducted and murdered - girls of around the same age as Sammy. As Rebus becomes involved in both the investigation and with a colleague, Gill Templer, he is also intrigued by a series of anonymous notes, containing either pieces of knotted string or two matchsticks making a cross. Meanwhile, journalist Jim Stevens, is drawn to Rebus in the course of another story and, before long, Rebus finds that his life, and that of his family, is in danger as the past and present collide.

This is a good start to the series, although it is obvious that the author is in no way certain that Rebus will become a long running character and he is still trying to create his background and traits. However, if you are reading a series, I always think it is best to begin at the beginning and get a sense of how the characters develop. Obviously, this is a long running and very successful series and I look forward to reading on and feel glad that I have (finally) discovered it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knots and Crosses: Ian Rankin - There are clues everywhere, 17 Jun. 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knots and Crosses (Hardcover)
Originally published in 1987, Knots and Crosses was Ian Rankin's second novel and the first to feature his enduringly popular creation John Rebus (Sergeant Rebus here, later Inspector Rebus).

Young girls are being murdered in Edinburgh, and a certain Sergeant Rebus is drafted from his usual work onto the murder enquiry team. Rebus has a troubled personal life, having suffered a breakdown upon leaving the army he is now divorced, melancholic and a little mentally unstable. He has things locked away in his head, memories buried so deep that he cannot remember them, even though they still haunt him. As well as the problem of the murders, someone seems to be stalking Rebus, sending him mysterious messages that are disquieting.

The book follows Rebus as he works away at the mundane aspects of the case, assigned to relatively boring paperchasing and door to door flat footing. Things soon hot up however, and Rebus finds himself plunged deeper into the case than he might like.

The book is an odd mix. The character of Rebus sometimes seems too outlandish to be believable, though most of the characterisations are essential to the plot. For all that, Rankin somehow manages to keep it believable, and Rebus comes across as an ordinary human being, not with any special powers of detection, but an ordinary copper who has been through the mill of life. Similarly some of the situations are a trifle out there, but Rankin always manages to keep it just on this side of real. The one thing that did come through was a sense of place. Rankin clearly knows Edinburgh very well, and his excellent prose describing the locales really evokes clear images in the mind's eye. It's not quite as polished or confident a book as his later works, to be expected for a writer just starting out. It's still an excellent read though.

4 stars for a pretty good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knots and Crosses: Ian Rankin - There are clues everywhere, 17 Jun. 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Originally published in 1987, Knots and Crosses was Ian Rankin's second novel and the first to feature his enduringly popular creation John Rebus (Sergeant Rebus here, later Inspector Rebus).

Young girls are being murdered in Edinburgh, and a certain Sergeant Rebus is drafted from his usual work onto the murder enquiry team. Rebus has a troubled personal life, having suffered a breakdown upon leaving the army he is now divorced, melancholic and a little mentally unstable. He has things locked away in his head, memories buried so deep that he cannot remember them, even though they still haunt him. As well as the problem of the murders, someone seems to be stalking Rebus, sending him mysterious messages that are disquieting.

The book follows Rebus as he works away at the mundane aspects of the case, assigned to relatively boring paperchasing and door to door flat footing. Things soon hot up however, and Rebus finds himself plunged deeper into the case than he might like.

The book is an odd mix. The character of Rebus sometimes seems too outlandish to be believable, though most of the characterisations are essential to the plot. For all that, Rankin somehow manages to keep it believable, and Rebus comes across as an ordinary human being, not with any special powers of detection, but an ordinary copper who has been through the mill of life. Similarly some of the situations are a trifle out there, but Rankin always manages to keep it just on this side of real. The one thing that did come through was a sense of place. Rankin clearly knows Edinburgh very well, and his excellent prose describing the locales really evokes clear images in the mind's eye. It's not quite as polished or confident a book as his later works, to be expected for a writer just starting out. It's still an excellent read though.

4 stars for a pretty good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knots and Crosses: Ian Rankin, unabridged audio reading by James MacPherson - There are clues everywhere, 17 Jun. 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Knots and Crosses (Audio CD)
Originally published in 1987, Knots and Crosses was Ian Rankin's second novel and the first to feature his enduringly popular creation John Rebus (Sergeant Rebus here, later Inspector Rebus).

Young girls are being murdered in Edinburgh, and a certain Sergeant Rebus is drafted from his usual work onto the murder enquiry team. Rebus has a troubled personal life, having suffered a breakdown upon leaving the army he is now divorced, melancholic and a little mentally unstable. He has things locked away in his head, memories buried so deep that he cannot remember them, even though they still haunt him. As well as the problem of the murders, someone seems to be stalking Rebus, sending him mysterious messages that are disquieting.

The book follows Rebus as he works away at the mundane aspects of the case, assigned to relatively boring paperchasing and door to door flat footing. Things soon hot up however, and Rebus finds himself plunged deeper into the case than he might like.

The book is an odd mix. The character of Rebus sometimes seems too outlandish to be believable, though most of the characterisations are essential to the plot. For all that, Rankin somehow manages to keep it believable, and Rebus comes across as an ordinary human being, not with any special powers of detection, but an ordinary copper who has been through the mill of life. Similarly some of the situations are a trifle out there, but Rankin always manages to keep it just on this side of real. The one thing that did come through was a sense of place. Rankin clearly knows Edinburgh very well, and his excellent prose describing the locales really evokes clear images in the mind's eye. It's not quite as polished or confident a book as his later works, to be expected for a writer just starting out. It's still an excellent read though.

This unabridged audio reading by James MacPherson wins out over the Bill Patterson reading in that it is unabridged, giving the story extra layers and more depth. MacPherson's reading is excellent, and he really captures the characters.

4 stars for a decent reading of a pretty good book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Knots and Crosses: Ian Rankin, abridged audio reading by Bill Patterson – There are clues everywhere, 13 Jun. 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Knots And Crosses (Audio CD)
Originally published in 1987, Knots and Crosses was Ian Rankin’s second novel and the first to feature his enduringly popular creation John Rebus (Sergeant Rebus here, later Inspector Rebus).

Young girls are being murdered in Edinburgh, and a certain Sergeant Rebus is drafted from his usual work onto the murder enquiry team. Rebus has a troubled personal life, having suffered a breakdown upon leaving the army he is now divorced, melancholic and a little mentally unstable. He has things locked away in his head, memories buried so deep that he cannot remember them, even though they still haunt him. As well as the problem of the murders, someone seems to be stalking Rebus, sending him mysterious messages that are disquieting.

The book follows Rebus as he works away at the mundane aspects of the case, assigned to relatively boring paperchasing and door to door flat footing. Things soon hot up however, and Rebus finds himself plunged deeper into the case than he might like.

The book is an odd mix. The character of Rebus sometimes seems too outlandish to be believable, though most of the characterisations are essential to the plot. For all that, Rankin somehow manages to keep it believable, and Rebus comes across as an ordinary human being, not with any special powers of detection, but an ordinary copper who has been through the mill of life. Similarly some of the situations are a trifle out there, but Rankin always manages to keep it just on this side of real. The one thing that did come through was a sense of place. Rankin clearly knows Edinburgh very well, and his excellent prose describing the locales really evokes clear images in the mind’s eye. It’s not quite as polished or confident a book as his later works, to be expected for a writer just starting out. It’s still an excellent read though.

This abridged audio reading by Bill Patterson comes on three CDs, in a double jewel case. There is a 10 minute introduction from Rankin himself, discussing the writing of the book and some aspects of Rebus. Patterson’s delivery is excellent, with his hypnotic Scottish accent that really draws you into the tale. It has been abridged, but the cuts do not show and it is an immensely listenable piece.

4 stars for a decent reading of a pretty good book.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The first Rebus, flat and hesitant, 19 April 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
The first of the Rebus novels and interesting as a source of background for the more developed character who would emerge in later works. This is a very limited piece of writing - the sort a teacher might describe as "showing promise". Rankin goes on to much better work, and his growth in literary maturity and confidence will shine through.
Rankin uses a simple, direct plot. He imports clichés - serial killer, revenge, the policeman and his family under threat. He hasn't made up his mind whether to write a police procedural or a thriller. He doesn't really nail his colours to the mast, so the plot and the characterisation drift innocuously in places. Even the background colour of Edinburgh is sparse - as if it might be a marketing mistake to make the book too Scottish ... or as if no one could believe evil would visit Edinburgh.
Indeed, Rankin does agonise at places in the book, reminding the reader that Edinburgh has its own history of grave robbers and murderers, that the city might present itself as a tourist, cultural, and political centre, but it is also a city which experiences violence, drugs, poverty. And it's the city of Stevenson, the source, perhaps, of his Jekyll and Hyde.
So "Knots and Crosses" is a bit coy. There is little use of Scots languages - it's a very English novel in that sense. This is far removed from, say, "Trainspotting". It introduces Rankin, a police sergeant who believes in god but who can't find a church he quite believes in. He's a man with a failed marriage, a fragile relationship with his daughter, and a successful brother. And Rebus is a man with a military past who is now being plagued with anonymous letters which distract his attention from a spate of murders which have begun to trouble the city.
The plot is a bit simplistic, it doesn't take much effort to work out whodunnit, the conclusion lacks tension and drama, the characters are a bit flat ... and Rebus' military background is provided courtesy of reading a book on the SAS. Rankin doesn't really get inside the man. Instead, he toys with a stereotype.
He resolves this in later novels. Rankin does grow enormously as an author in his later works, and it is well worth persevering. Reading "Knots and Crosses" helps you understand the development of the author rather than the character, but it does give insights into the series. However, I would advise you to buy "Rebus: The Early Years", which offers an anthology of the first three Rebus novels ("Knots and Crosses", " Hide and Seek", and " Tooth and Nail"). This is far better value, and it will help you see the growth and maturity in Rankin's writing rather than just dismissing him because of the limited nature of his first creation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Beginning, 18 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Knots And Crosses (Inspector Rebus Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I've been wanting to get round to Rebus for more than a decade. All the more disappointing then that this opening entry in the series is so pedestrian. For a start, Rebus himself is a stock collage of character defects that have been better used in better books. Choice of music, reliance on booze, dogged persistence... the redeeming feature, of the character rather than the man, is how uninspired a police officer he is at this stage. It was refreshing, to me at least, to encounter so unimpressive a detective. There's nothing remarkable about John Rebus, save for his past. The SAS training he has undertaken is shrouded in mystery, which of course means it's central to a plot that fails to unravel and just sort of presents itself at the end. Obvious clues are ignored for the sake of stringing things out to book length, and when a stage hypnotist is brought in to uncover certain suppressed memories, I almost threw the book at the wall. For the most part, the book is clumsy, and a struggle to wade through. I'm glad I tried the next in the series, which is considerably better, but I almost stopped here.
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