Sunday, February 14, 2016

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Recently, the editorial cartoonist for the local newspaper raved about Ian Rankin's books, and I realized I had never read a Rebus crime novel. That's as bad as the days when I said how much I loved police procedurals, but was saving Ed McBain's books for retirement. By now, I've read some of the 87th Precinct books. And, I just finished the first John Rebus book, Knots and Crosses. Without having read any others, I can say I'm glad I started with the first one, a book that introduces the complicated Rebus.

At forty-one, Rebus is a Detective Sergeant who has been with the police force in Edinburgh for fifteen years. He's divorced, with a daughter he misses. He's not close to his only brother, Michael, a successful stage hypnotist. In fact, he's not really close to anyone. When he's not working too hard, he's drinking too much to escape the nightmares of his past. And, with his time in the Army and in Special Assignments, Rebus definitely has nightmares he's glad he's forgotten.

Now, he's assigned to a nightmare of a case, one that strikes too close to home. Parents all over Edinburgh are locking up their young daughters. Someone is abducting young girls, ages eleven or twelve, and strangling them. As Rebus works with other officers to uncover answers, he's blind to the answer staring him in the face. Rebus himself holds the key to the killer's identity, the forgotten nightmare from his own past.

Knots and Crosses was written twenty-seven years ago, the first in a string of successful Rebus police novels. It was a powerful kick-off to the series, introducing a complex character, a fascinating man haunted by demons. I read police procedurals to observe the methodology in the investigation, the careful step-by-step unraveling of the case, sometimes finishing with a flash of insight or brilliance. I appreciate the multiple characters and complicated relationships within the police force themselves. Rankin's first Rebus novel has all of those elements, along with the grittiness of the underbelly of Edinburgh, the sites the police see while tourists don't.

Flawed heroes. Police investigations. Complex cases with unexpected endings. For me, it doesn't get any better than this. I'll be back for more of Ian Rankin's Rebus books.

Ian Rankin's website is

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin. St. Martin's Minotaur. 1987. ISBN 0312956738 (paperback), 228p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Good choice! Starting at the beginning is definitely the way to go and I like the earlier Rebus books better. He's also written (and I've read, of course) a couple of collections of shorts with Rebus in some of them. Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities (if the weather was better I could definitely live there) so that is an extra factor in my liking the series - his excellent use of the city in the stories,

TFJ said...

I, too, have had Ian Rankin on my list of series to start and just haven't got around to it. Thanks for this reminder, Lesa.


Lesa said...

Jeff, That's actually a disappointment to hear you like the earlier books better. So, I better enjoy these while I can. I've never been to Edinburgh, although I have a standing invitation to stay with a friend at her place there. This year, I hope to make it to Ireland. Edinburgh will be on my list after that.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Tricia. Just so many good series and writers to read. It's hard to get to everyone.

Kay said...

I'm glad to read your experience with the first Rebus novel, Lesa. I, too, have not read any of his books and I keep thinking I should. Several bloggers have recommended him. So, as I always like to start at the beginning, I'll take a look and see if I might already own this one. I have a niggling idea that I do. Own it I mean. Thanks for the nudge.

And hope to see you next week. :-)

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kay. Planning to see you next week! That's what I love about Left Coast Crime. It's small enough so you can find people you want to see. And, at the moment, I'm planning to go to the Pen on Wed. night before the conference for International Night. Should be fun.

Kay said...

How fun for you! We don't arrive until the evening on Weds., though Cathy had told me about it. Not sure if she is going or not. I do know she'll be at LCC.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Sorry. I don't mean the books were better early in the series. It's just that they get longer and more complicated as they go on and you need to make more and more time to read them,

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Tina said...

Thanks Lesa for bringing this one to the front. I've read a couple of this series over the years, and kept meaning to start at the beginning. Just put a hold on our library's copy so I can do this now. We're heading out to Edinburgh in May and this will be perfect to get me in the mood.

Lesa said...

Thanks for the clarification, Jeff!

Lesa said...

Oh, good, Tina! And, I'm envious of your trip to Edinburgh. It sounds as if Jeff loves it. Have a great trip!