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Celebrating 30 years of Ian Rankin's Rebus mysteries - gritty detective stories set on the dirty streets of Edinburgh with a delightfully anti-social hero.
1: KNOTS AND CROSSES - the novel which first introduced John Rebus. Year 10: BLACK AND BLUE - the breakthrough novel, winner of the CWA Gold Dagger. Year 20: EXIT MUSIC - where Rebus retires...but will he ever be able to leave it all behind?
Winner of Crime Thriller of the Year at the British Book Awards 2005. Very much the thinking man’s mystery, this novel is dominated by racial issues, the thugs and the refugees just outside Edinburgh. It is peppered with a variety of nasty crimes, has Rebus desk-less, further proof of his superiors edging him out, and his side-kick Siobhan becoming that little bit more important to him … but when will they become lovers? This is not his best, but second-best is still great. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Rankin is one of the masters of crime fiction and Knots and Crosses is where it all began. Here, we are introduced to John Rebus, SAS paratrooper turned Detective Sergeant. When young girls start disappearing around Edinburgh he is called in to investigate, but the case becomes far more personal than he could ever have imagined as he is sent clues in form of knoted string and matchsticks. Brilliantly plotted and the backdrop of Edinburgh plays as big a part in the novel as any of the characters. I read it in one sitting. Highly recommended. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Rebus has everything against him, an internal investigation, a possible miscarriage of justice and a pretty tough Glasgow gangster. Enough to try the patience of any cop, but when it’s the curmudgeon Rebus he really has to tread a fine line. Another excellent read. This book won a well-deserved Golden Dagger Award (Best Mystery as awarded by the Crime Writers Association of Britain).
Gregor Jack MP is discovered in a brothel during a police raid and the tabloids have a field day. It seems he was framed … then his wife is murdered. This takes Rebus away from his gritty Edinburgh into Fife and the highlands as he investigates the world of a successful man. But human failings also happen outside a city, infidelity, jealousy, lust are all explored along with loyalty and respect as Gregor Jack’s chums stick up for him. So Rebus can do ‘upmarket’ too, which is interesting but not as enthralling as underbelly Edinburgh in my mind. This is not a place to start your Rebus trip.
The hunt for the killer of a junkie whose body is found in a deserted building in a very rough housing estate is the backdrop to the second Rebus mystery. He is now an Inspector and courted by Edinburgh’s elite. So Rankin gives us two sides of a great city, although it is the dark side that pushes through this chilling novel and its complex plot. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Rankin, himself now in London, brings Rebus down “to suffer” but basically because he is supposedly an ‘expert’ in catching serial killers. This particular one leaves teeth marks on his victims and hence is nicknamed ‘Wolfman’ which was the original title of the novel. London does not suit Rebus and his relationship with the Met is interesting, lots of Scottish-English rivalry/prejudice and not nearly as much feeling for place that the Edinburgh novels have … But the plot is great, fast and twisted, well written and compulsive as ever with another bruising love affair but sadly to my mind a rather lame ending. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Undeterred by pressure from above to drop a sensitive case, Rebus unearths dirty dealings and conspiracy within many official departments. Along the way we find a tender side to our spiky cop in a novel that eventually brings him a little closer to his estranged daughter. Although his drinking problem is on the increase, this complicated, unhappy fellow, who is not doing too well, demands our sympathy, or at least mine. The blending of political corruption and the development of Scotland’s economy is fascinating. A really good one. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Full of plot, incidents, twists and turns. At its core is gang warfare, a Nazi war criminal and Rebus struggling with his demon drink and the memory of his daughter. Edinburgh, of course, is at the centre of it all. It is one of his best, complicated, clever and very satisfying.
The Black Book of the title belongs to a brutally attacked colleague and contains baffling coded secrets which Rebus must obviously solve. In a convoluted plot of Edinburgh’s low life we meet arch villain “Big Ger” for the first time and discover his protection racket. This is definitely Edinburgh’s dark side … brilliantly revealed. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
A paedophile taking pictures of children at Edinburgh’s Zoo speaks of trouble to Rebus, but it seems others think not. Dilemma. Rankin is so good at throwing up social issues, nutty problems and tricky situations. This is littered with them, as it is with different story lines and references to past cases. It’s beautifully done, intriguing, tantalising but for those not in the ‘know’ it’s not distracting. Not as dark as most, this fairly rips along, it’s difficult to put down.
Rebus continues to grow as a character as we spend more time with him. Here his ex-SAS experience is called on in a case that starts at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and swings from the country to Belfast and back. Heavy on the Catholic/Protestant Irish question and rich in low-life, this gives us a mass of plot, Big Ger (from The Black Book) escaped from prison and very dangerous, and a whole lot more to add to our respect for this troubled, unconventional detective.
Don’t start your Rebus experience here for this is too full of his despair and failings for you to fully appreciate the man. You need to know him better to get the most out of this. If you do know him then this is terrific. At last his patience has snapped and as a result he is sent for retraining. Now his colleagues are also all officers with attitude problems, some pretty bad, and this makes for an extraordinary tale of good cop/bad cop, but it is for the real fan, not for the casual crime reader. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Barry Forshaw on Ian Rankin and Bill James... Ian Rankin is one of the UK’s bestselling British crime writers. Aficionados admire the gritty, socially committed toughness of his books, along with their vividly realised sense of place. And these are exactly the qualities that may be found in the work of the veteran Bill James, whose astonishing consistency over many years is a continuing cause for admiration. And, like Rankin, James has few equals when it comes to memorable, highly individual dialogue. Fans of Rankin’s Rebus novels – including Resurrection Men – will relish Bill James’ Harpur and Iles novels: start with You'd Better Believe It.
Revolving around the new Parliament building and early dark secrets, this has seemingly unconnected cases building to a wonderful, convoluted tale of corruption and greed.
Our curmudgeon, with bandaged hands and his bad attitude against authority, particularly his superiors, makes him a prime suspect for a particular case of arson and surprisingly his past comes back to haunt him when there is a shooting in a school which looks like the work of a crazed ex-SAS member. All is made worse by army investigators. With its red-herrings and diversions, this is another excellent yarn. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Winner of Crime Thriller of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007.A very different Rebus. The darkness and aggressive atmosphere of previous books is much lighter and Rebus himself is a softer, much more sympathetic person – except in his approach to ‘authority’ which has always appeared as much the enemy as the criminals. Siobhan Clarke partners him here and this time has an almost equal share of the book. I had difficulty putting this one down, it is absolutely gripping.
All the way through this book the overwhelming feeling is the pathos of Rebus’ lonely life and with only ten days to retirement, what will he do, for this is farewell to Rebus. It is also another brilliant, atmospheric tale with Rebus annoying his superiors, going off at a tangent and facing his old nemesis, Big Ger, again. As always there is a twist in the end and, after the final results, finishes with a cliff hanger! Rebus will be sadly missed. The lonely, difficult, drinking, smoking character will leave a large hole, but this is a great farewell. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Shortlisted for the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2008.
A highly atmospheric guide to the locations used for his crime novels and as such also an intriguing glimpse into the author’s life and mind. I found it fascinating. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Internet role playing lies at the heart of this stunning novel, one of his best. The Rosslyn Chapel makes a brief appearance, the falls being close by, and Rankin’s consummate plotting is used to its full. This is wonderful stuff, interestingly without the large development of Rebus’ personal problems that more of the other books include.
A truly fabulous blast of crime fiction. John Rebus continues to ignore retirement, and an unsolved case haunts his thoughts as he shoulders his way into the middle of a current investigation. Ok, hands up, I confess… this is my first meeting with John Rebus! I will admit to being slightly wary of jumping into the deep end of such a successful and prevalent series, yet immediately felt at home and now can't wait to work my way through the others. John Rebus may wobble on the scales of law and order, but his core sense of integrity, tenacity, and grit, ensure he is someone you would most definitely want on your side. I found myself well and truly caught in the snare of Ian Rankin’s writing; this was so easy to read, yet the story coiled, twisted, and thrashed its way through feuds, murder, and some seriously crooked minds. ‘Rather Be the Devil’ is a compelling, gutsy, proper crime fix, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson June 2017 Book of the Month.
If you were a concerned fan dubious how Rebus was going to fare in retirement, fear not for although in Standing in Another Man’s Grave, he and the familiar surrounding characters had to get their heads round their new positions and in Saints of the Shadow Bible they were still getting used to their new lives, now in this one they have definitely arrived. This is back up to full standard. Taking risks and going his own way as usual, Rebus still doesn’t mind how unpopular he might be with those in authority. In fact he treats his actions as confirmation that his way works, but he would, wouldn’t he? The story is woven around two old gangsters and an up and coming Edinburgh criminal. It is littered with red herrings and twists which are hugely enjoyable plus some more personal stuff especially about Clarke and Fox of the local CID which will delight fans. Excellent. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Rebus is back on the force after his time in cold case investigations but he has been demoted to Detective Sergeant. He has also mellowed, lost his spark so do not look for the old Rebus, just enjoy Rankin’s involved, many-threaded plot. We do see the old Rebus resurface towards the end when he uses old methods to solve one of his old cases involving the death of a prisoner some 30 years ago. Before that we have an angry Rebus discovering too much, plus having a no vote for the referendum, which is interesting. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Recently retired, Rebus is working in a small unit which looks into old, unsolved cases. Still famed for his unconventional methods and still heavily smoking and drinking, he remains in contact with old comrades and villains alike. Fans will know Siobhan Clarke and Big Ger Cafferty, to name a couple, newcomers will be happy just following along. The story involves several missing girls who may or may not be dead. After Rebus retired in Exit Music and Rankin delved into new areas he developed one Malcolm Fox (The Complaints) whom he now ingeniously introduces here into a minor role which we just know will be developed in future books. Interestingly the cold case being investigated is in the north so taking Rebus out of Edinburgh. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Ian Rankin says of the return of Rebus: “I felt there was unfinished business between the two of us. He had never really gone away but was working for Edinburgh's cold case unit. And I knew I had a story that was a perfect fit for him.” Longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2014. June 2013 Book of the Month.
30 Years of Rebus...
Ian Rankin has a throng of dedicated followers the world over for his eponymous Rebus mysteries. The latest case, Rather Be the Devil, is out now: a tale of twisted power, deep-rooted corruption and bitter rivalries. If you haven’t discovered this stand-out crime writing yet, we envy you. You can find all of the darkly addictive Rebus cases here. Enjoy.
On 19 March 1987, Ian Rankin wrote in his diary: ‘Knots & Crosses is published, to not much acclaim and not many reviews.’
30 years on it's a different story:
'Superbly told, impossible to put down...it precisely underlines the treasure that Rebus has become.' Daily Mail
'This elegantly crafted and witty thriller proves this old devil still has all the best tunes.' Sunday Mirror
Ian Rankin was born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987, and the Rebus books are now translated into thirty-six languages and are bestsellers worldwide. Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four Crime Writers' Association Dagger Awards including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America's celebrated Edgar Award for Resurrection Men. He has also been shortlisted for the Anthony Award in the USA, won Denmark's Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Hull and the Open University.A contributor to BBC2's Newsnight Review, he also presented his own TV series, Ian Rankin's Evil Thoughts. Rankin is a number one bestseller in the UK and has received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.
Author photo © Hamish Brown.
There have been 21 Rebus novels and below is the whole list in order of publication - just click on the title you would like to find out more about:
The Rebus series:
1. Knots and Crosses
2. Hide and Seek
3. Tooth and Nail
4. Strip Jack
5. The Black Book
6. Mortal Causes
7. Let It Bleed
8. Black and Blue
9. The Hanging Garden
10. Dead Souls
11. Set in Darkness
12. The Falls
13. Resurrection Men
14. A Question of Blood
15. Fleshmarket Close
16. The Naming Of The Dead
17. Exit Music
18. Standing in Another Man's Grave
19. Saints of the Shadow Bible
20. Even Dogs in the Wild
21. Rather Be the Devil
For even more information on Ian Rankin visit his website - click here