"Rebus Seasons 2 & 3," is a television series of British mysteries, tartan noir subdivision, based upon the best-selling novels of Edgar-winning Britisher Ian Rankin, whom fellow American crime novelist James Ellroy recently called "the progenitor and king of tartan noir." What's tartan noir? Generally more violent and bloody stories, bloodier-minded too, but relieved with that dark Scottish humour, written by, duh!! a Scot. At any rate, the series of police procedurals was made by and for Britain's ITV stations, and filmed in modern-day Edinburgh, where they are set; but generally take place a considerable distance from the lovely tourist magnet sites of Scotland's capital city, and show us its darker, more chaotic side.
Considerable effort and expense seem to have been expended on this series. The on site color photography is excellent; casts are topnotch, and the extras appear to have been laid on with a generous hand: every shot, of police station or street, is full of people taking care of business, whatever that business might be. To add to the pleasures of this production, the actors appear to have been encouraged to speak in local dialect, really giving the viewers the sense of being there - somewhere else -- thanks to their distinctly different use of the language, their idioms and accents, their chat of "I cannae, didnae,""Your coat's hung on a shoogily peg,"and so forth.
This series includes taut episodes based on seven of Rankin's books, and one original script. Ken Stott,(The Vice: The Complete Series (repackaged) [DVD]), praised as a very good television actor, continues his run as Detective Inspector Rebus; Claire Price (Midsomer Murders - Tainted Fruit [DVD]), continues hers as Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke. Rebus drinks, smokes, and stokes his anger more than is good for him; doesn't always follow police procedures or the wishes of his superiors - but he gets results.
1."The Black Book," first of the series, is also one of the best. A young woman, part-time student and part-time prostitute turns up dead, in a spot known to the locals as the five sisters. Rebus is immediately reminded of a similar killing ten years ago, that he was never able to solve, thanks partly to the local prominence of the chief suspect. He anonymously receives a mysterious black book, illustrated and written in code; whether to help or hinder his investigations, he doesn't know. But he's off. The episode has a complex, intelligent, emotionally involving plot, with several family arcs.
2."A Question of Blood" is equally strong. There's a shooting at a local college, as they call it, we'd call it a prep school. Two boys, and an instructor, an ex-Army Special Forces man - as is Rebus - are dead; one boy seriously injured. It all appears cut and dried, except that the former SAS man, a highly trained commando, died with tears in his eyes. One of the dead boys is the son of a cousin of Rebus's; we learn that Rebus's extreme focus on the job impacts on his family, as well as the women that pass through his life.
3. "Strip Jack." Vice are tipped onto a local brothel, underage prostitutes. There are none, but the net does capture a celebrated local millionaire philanthropist. His wife soon turns up dead. Is it the work of a local serial killer, or a one-off made to look that way? Once again, very strong, various family vectors.
4. "Let It Bleed -" I can't remember the novel on which it's based, though I've read it, don't know where to lay the blame, has more of a hand-me-down plot. Tricked out, however, in some interesting new Scottish clothes, lots of twists and turns, that black Scottish humor,with some interesting casting coups. Rebus's witness/new love interest is played by Anna Chancellor, ("Henrietta --"otherwise known as "Duckface" in "Four Weddings and a Funeral.")And Roy Marsden, longtime Adam Dalgleish in the television treatments of the work of P.D. James, gives us the more-or-less villain of the piece.
5. "Resurrection Men" has been just about totally rewritten from the book; that's probably just as well, as many people complained the latter was confusing. Even so, this book won the Edgar Award for Best Novel. Rebus is sent off to a facility for troubled cops.
6. "The First Stone," an original script, using Rankin's characters, is a riveting, gutsy attack on the Church of Scotland.
7. "The Naming of the Dead" has also been largely rewritten from the book that won the British Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year. It's undoubtedly just as well, too, as many readers complained that that book, which is set at an Edinburgh G8 conference, was also too confusing.
8. " Knots and Crosses" is excellently done. It features actor Nicholas Farrell, who's virtually grown-up on TV and movie screens before us, as its villain. It is based on an earlier book, the first Rebus novel, published in 1987 to great critical acclaim.
In "The First Stone," Templer is asked how she sleeps at night, with the things she's seen as a cop. She answers, "a wee dram." If you're watching this exciting series at night, you just might need similar help.
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