Sunday, March 10, 2013

Knots & Crosses (Ian Rankin, 1987)

I don't care much for these modern crime writers who publish their novels as on assembly line. It's not a snobbish thing, I just find most of these books totally predictable and boring. But I do have a habit of checking out a local author when I visit some new country/city. So last year I (finally!) had an opportunity to go to the Edinburgh's famous Fringe festival (btw - soooo cool!) and a friend had recommended me to check out Rankin's Rebus.

And no surprise really, it's just another one of those formulaic "catch a serial killer" thrillers that focuses far too much on its main protagonist and not enough on the plot development. And as hard as Mr. Rankin tries to make him original, Rebus is as stereotyped as they come. He's an ex-SAS (top of his class!), weary, divorced, drinks to much, tries to quit smoking, doesn't get along with his superiors, does manage to get laid etc etc

Story is trivial and told in a straightforward way through the third person narration. Few flashbacks and a couple of sub-plots involving brother Michael and (once again mandatory) unscrupulous news reporter. Also few hints indicating that some seriously fucked-up shit had happened to our hero during his service days. Which, I guess, is supposed to give this novel its "psychological" thriller edge. Anyways, mysterious "Strangler" is abducting and killing young girls and Rebus seems to be somehow related to this because he keeps getting cryptic messages (there are clues everywhere) from this sinister asshole.

Plotting is basically non-existent, but this lack of suspense gives us the most hilarious twist. Because - check this, I kid you not! - the whole Edinburgh's police force is understandably working around the clock to catch this killer but still they fail to recognize that initials of his victims form the name of the next unfortunate girl. They actually realize this when they receive a telephone call from a concerned citizen who had managed to solve this incredibly difficult riddle. Jesus, I feel sorry for the Scottish tax payers.

This is getting a bit mean and nasty so I'd better stop. Especially because in all fairness it's not that bad, I'm sure that more skilful writer could pull a good short story (stripped of all the family crap) out of this material. But you can just tell that this was Rankin's first book and he was trying too hard to create his hero and dark(?) Edinburgh atmosphere and had in process simply failed to create decent mystery story.



Detective Sergeant John Rebus


Body count: 4

Gill Templer, Press Liaison Officer

One, pretty dull - "Rebus, unable to move, decided it was safe to go to sleep now..."

Rebus had been sent knots and crosses as a part of cat-and-mouse game with the Strangler 

Pretty unimaginative one, I guess it is a picture of some site in Edinburgh.

Cool lines:  
"We don't want vigilante tactics. Not in Edinburgh. What would the tourists say?"

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