Book Review time!
Knots and Crosses
This is a novel written by Ian Rankin, a Scottish detective fiction author. I had not read any of his novels before this one. I bought it from the book store because I have been searching for a new crime author to read and this one was on the ‘Greatest Book List’.
Knots and Crosses is the first in the Inspector Rebus series of novels by Rankin and I went into it with no expectations. While Rankin is an exceptionally popular author, this was one of his first novels published over 20 years ago and as such I didn’t expect brilliance from the first page.
We follow Rebus, a fairly stereotypical detective character, as he investigates a series of murders. He drinks and smokes too much, is determined, stubborn, divorced and maintains a slightly strained relationship with his daughter. He also struggles with organised religion but believes in a Christian God. There are however, a few aspects to his character I found a refreshing break from the stereotype, he suffers from PTSD, blacks out and has flashbacks as a result of some brutal training from his time in the SAS. Some criticisms of Rankin’s depiction is that the PTSD aspect of Rebus made him ‘unlikable’. I found the opposite. I felt that this made me sympathetic to Rebus and made his character more complex, I wanted to know more about him. Rebus is also not immediately placed at the top of the heap compared to his fellow officers. It took assistance from his colleague/love interest and his brother to figure out who the murderer was. He also completes routine police work, collating sightings of vehicles, going through old case files to look for possible suspects.
The other characters are fairly standard. You have the normal police inspector in charge, bluff, by the book; a journalist, sharp, nosy, well connected; a pretty love interest etc. One character I felt had more depth to her, was Rebus’ daughter, Samantha. She is only an active character in a few places, most of her participation is passive, with other characters speaking about her. Rankin captures that pre-adolescent attitude, that moment between childhood and teen, and the beginnings of rebellion against her mother. I hope that her character is developed even further in some of the other Rebus novels, as I think she provides a good balance to Rebus himself.
I enjoyed Rankin’s style, he almost teases your imagination, only giving enough detail for a rough picture to form, but not enough to get overly descriptive which would get in the way of the story. He switches narrators in the book with ease and I felt it flowed well. It was easy to read, the length good, though I would have liked the ending explained a bit more.
The setting for this novel is what made me decide to go with Rankin. Edinburgh, and Scotland, is a bit of a favourite place of mine. I have been twice (I live in Australia, so it is a fair way!) and Rankin uses the real street names, pubs, clubs and monuments in his novels. I have read a few times, that Rankin writes ‘tartan noir’ and his description of the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh lends itself to that label.
Overall, I really enjoyed it and will be reading more of Rankin’s novels, especially those in the Rebus series. So, for the time being, I think that will be my new series to get back into reading this year.
If you know of any decent crime/detective authors out there, let me know as it is definitely my go to genre.