I don't want to give the story away in thus so I will keep away from the plot. It is such a good read that it is not worth spoiling it by this review going over the plot so I will try and keep away!
Ian Rankin is a favourite author of mine and I have bought all his books. I was travelling to Scotland with my mum on a holiday inspired by these books. On stopping at the service station on the M5 I saw this cd audio book and though what better accompaniment to the journey to Scotland but that.
I have liked audio books since I joined Audible a few years ago and downloaded a book a month. I had never actually had a cd audio book before this one so this was something of a novelty.
The quality of the cd is brilliant and the reader really gets you gripped grim the beginning. It was funny as I knew the story line but still felt myself gripped by the way it was portrayed on the cd.
Rankin can really create an image of the people and places in his story and this is really eminated in this recording.
For those who have never heard of Rankin before, he writes about a detective named John Rebus who works for the fife police force in Edinburgh. He flies close to the seat of his pants most of the time! This novel shows Rebus doing just that while he investigate an inquiry into a make by the name of BibleJohn whilst he us being investigated himself by the police forces internal investigation team.
All of Rankin's books are exceptional, this is no exception.
I an really impressed by the quality of the audio cd and if you are into gritty crime thrillers them definitely get this one.
Detective Inspector John Rebus is involved in a series of murders, all of which appear to have been committed by one killer. There are also links in the modus operandi with Bible John, who killed many years before - but it can't be Bible John who is committing the crimes because witnesses claim the new one is a young man. Rebus is also involved in another case, which appears to be linked to Glasgow's answer to the Godfather and an off-shore oil company. On top of this, Rebus is being shadowed by a colleague from Glasgow who he suspects is accepting bribes from Glasgow's Godfather. It appears Rebus' life can't get any more complicated, so he does a bunk to Aberdeen, where he hopes he will be able to investigate in peace. Of course, Aberdeen, and his travels beyond, prove to be anything but peaceful.
This audio book is an abridged version of Ian Rankin's book, although at nearly four hours, it is still a long listen. It is narrated by James Macpherson over three discs (and is also available as a digital download). I am personally a big fan of audio books - although I love reading, I find it easier to drop off to sleep if I'm listening to something - somehow it relaxes the mind and helps me to forget about daily troubles that might otherwise keep me asleep. Usually, my audio book of choice wouldn't be an Ian Rankin. I enjoy his books very much, but they tend to be that much grittier that the sort of thing I like to hear on an audio book. Nevertheless, this is a very good adaptation, ideal for listening to in the car, walking or while in bed.
James Macpherson is better known as DCI Jardine in Taggart. Initially, I found this a little off-putting, because I kept expecting other Taggart characters to appear in the story. After a while though, I got used to it and loved listening to the variation he gave the accents as Rebus moved from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Glasgow (although I can't vouch for the accuracy). Macpherson isn't as good as some other audio book narrators, simply because the tone of his voice didn't vary all that much - some narrators, such as Martin Jarvis and Hugh Fraser do a brilliant job of making each person sound completely different and make an effort to differentiate between sexes. Neverthless, for the purpose of the story, Macpherson is more than adequate.
I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Rebus as a character. I've just never been able to warm to him. He's self-obsessed, often obnoxious and generally just not that likeable. Nevertheless, he does suit the tone of Rankin's stories very well. In this story, he is pulling off his usual maverick performance, annoying all those around him and bringing in favours where he can. He is most definitely not a team player. There is little mention of his private life here - although of course that may be the part that is abridged out. I mention that because he does come across as more sympathetic when his private life is mentioned, whereas here, he is just a maverick cop doing a job.
Thankfully, one of Ian Rankin's strengths is his story-telling and, being an earlier Rebus book, this is a good one. It does become quite complicated at times, because Rebus seems to flit between cases and there is a great deal going on. I did find that the first time of listening left me confused, although I must admit that is partly because I kept falling asleep before the end of the disc. Listening to it for a second and third time, however, I can appreciate that it is actually a very clever story and Ian Rankin should be commended for bringing it together in such an impressive way. The ending is certainly a good one - one of those heart-thumping finishes that few authors seem to be able to pull off well.
Most people are used to Rebus books being set in Edinburgh, and I do really enjoy the descriptions of the city. This one is a little different in that it moves between cities - Rebus spends a lot of time in Aberdeen, for example. I've never been to Aberdeen and knew very little about it before, but I do feel I learned something from this book. The descriptions are incredibly vivid, especially when you consider that most of them were probably abridged for the purpose in hand. I also liked the descriptions of Rebus flying to oil platforms in the North Sea. Rankin clearly did his research - and it comes across in his writing.
On that note, there is an 'extra' in the form of a brief introduction by Ian Rankin. This comes conveniently at the beginning of the first disc, which can be easily skipped if you don't want to hear it. Rankin discusses the research he put into the book and why he chose the title to the book - black and blue obviously refers to bruises, which Rebus has in spades as he is beaten up more than once, but the black also refers to the oil that plays such an important part in the novel. It's not something I couldn't do without, but it is a nice little touch.
This is the eighth book in the Inspector Rebus series and won the Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction - well deserved as far as I'm concerned.
I really enjoyed this audio book. If you're really looking to relax, there are probably far more restful books to listen to - anyone who reads Rankin will know that his work is very gritty and violent. Nevertheless, it's a good story that is well narrated, so much so that even the presence of Rebus and his misery is a small price to pay. And at nearly four hours of listening, this is really worth buying, so long as you can get it for a reasonable price.
The CD version is available from Amazon for £12.60. However, it is worth checking out the marketplace and elsewhere, because there are much better deals there.