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Customer Review

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good start to a fantastic series, 25 July 2005
This review is from: Knots And Crosses (A Rebus Novel) (Paperback)
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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