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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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on 14 July 2017
Having read a couple of Rebus books a year or so ago and enjoyed them I thought to start from the beginning and come up to date with the character over the next few months. I therefore chose this, the first one he wrote. I got a shock. I found myself cowering before a steady stream of strained similes as if the writer had caught an stomach bug on a creative writing course (yes some of them were even worse than that!) There was no let up, and plot didn't help. It was of the 'he kept receiving mysterious symbolic messages' type, and as is often the case in such tales the explanation was too silly for words. And to cap it all the fun was lot of poor little girls getting bumped off. Goodness knows where all the gushing reviews come from ... But the ones I read before were fine - don't be put off Rankin if this is your first one.
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on 31 August 2016
Having put off for a long time trying Rankin (possibly because I felt it a tad old) I finally picked up the first of the Rebus books for my kindle... I'm hooked. He's such an interesting character and the story had me gripped from the start. To the point I downloaded books 2 - 4 and have almost completed all of those! Why oh why have I left it so long to enjoy these? On the plus side at least there isn't a long wait until book 5 and onward!
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on 3 October 2017
The first ever Inspector Rebus novel. He's actually Detective Sergeant Rebus in this one, although I dare say he gets promoted later in the series.

There is somebody killing little girls in Edinburgh. Not a sex pervert as you might expect. He kills them and dumps them. Police are baffled. Rebus is doing the dogsbody painstaking police work. Until suddenly he gets a tip off which makes it all very personal.

Generally the cops investigate things at arm's length. If someone known personally to the investigating officer is suspected of a crime, the investigation is handed over to another copper. In this case it doesn't happen, and yet although it is very much a personal involvement, Rebus goes on to solve the puzzle.

I think that if I had read this book first of the many Rebus novels, it might have put me off reading others. The personal involvement thing usually crops up when the writer has run out of ideas, and resorts to a desperate bid to clear his best friend's name or whatever. This is rather the opposite. And Edinburgh puts in a sterling performance as Best Supporting Actor
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on 23 March 2016
This is the first Rebus novel I've read. It's also the first novels in which I cannot find a single likeable character. Rebus appears to be a scruffy ill disciplined oaf, and if that is a true representation of our constabulary then we're in worse trouble than even cynical old me anticipated. And I really don't want to know about his sex life. I don't think the writer does the city any favours either. Having said that, the plot is compelling, although I'm not sure the army's actions are believable. I will try the second in the series.
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on 3 May 2015
Having read a more recent non-Rebus Rankin novel, I was very much looking forward to reading this. I soon realised that my optimism was misplaced. The story was so slow to get going, and in no way could Rebus be said to have 'solved' the crime. In fact, he seemed to be a particularly dense detective, failing to see what was right under his nose. Instead, Rebus stumbled on the solution following a hypnosis session, which seemed as ludicrous as it did improbable. Given the heinous nature of the crimes (the strangulation of children), there seemed to be very little empathy with the victims' families or any attempt to humanise the girls. The author merely used the murders as a plot device. It was difficult to care about the crimes when Rankin didn't seems to care much himself. It seems that Rankin's skills as a novelist improved over time. As such, be advised to skip this novel and try one of his more recent efforts.
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on 1 December 2014
`A requiem mass and a bag of chips.'

It seems almost surreal to be trying to give a review of a book that is about thirty years old and that most fans of the crime genre will have read. That's me all over - always late to discover the joys of something everyone else has enjoyed. I have been advised to read the Rebus books for some time and I have finally begun.

I was not disappointed. This is an excellent, simple story that clearly sets a scene for the sequels that were no doubt planned before this book was even penned. It is impossible to give much of a synopsis of this book without giving away spoilers. Nor, for the same reason should I attempt to discuss its themes.

What I did enjoy was reading a story of crime detection that took place before the age of profilers, the Internet and other computerised databases. It allows for more flaws of detection and dare I say it, good old fashioned police work.
The story itself, as I have said is simple. However, this should not be taken to mean that it is easy to solve. The clues, though appearing often from the start are meaningless until a crushing revelation of Rebus' past is revealed. The story is relatively risk-free but its position in modern literary fiction is assured and my only regret is waiting this long to read it.

I look forward to the coming weeks and months as I get to walk along the path of Rebus' life.
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on 15 March 2017
I have read a couple of Rebus books but they were both later ones. I have decided to start at the beginning and I am glad that I did. I think by reading Knots and Crosses you learn so much about Rebus as a character. The story is quite simple really and not like his complex later cases. I will definitely be reading the next one.
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on 18 July 2017
Having largely ignored Rankin for most of my life, my high expectations of this established writer were almost bound to be disappointed. A pot-boiler stitch-up of Christie, Hitchcock and Greene might be considered acceptable for an unknown author, and perhaps the sex helped sell the book back along. The storytelling is competent, of course, but the plot is just not credible. An improbably named policeman with an improbable drug-dealing hypnotist brother and an improbable army background that he improbably can't remember. Please.... And character development? I didn't know anymore about Rebus at the end of the book than I did at the beginning. Perhaps I should dip into a later volume? I might not bother.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 June 2013
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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