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This book is made up of twelve short stories by Ian Rankin and the title of the book, A Good Hanging, is one of the twelve stories. ll of the stories feature Detective Inspector Frank Rebus, a character who has made it to the small screen as well.
These are a great collection of short stories, well crafted and wonderfully written with a real economy of words used however this is not at the costof good plots, nice character detail and some flowing prose. The stories are very easy to read and this makes the book both a page turner but one that you can always put down if you need to as you are never far from an ending.
Set in Edinburgh Rebus is of an experienced no nonsense inspector who uses his deep knowledge of the criminal mind and a wide reaching web of contacts to solve a whole host of crimes. He is not much of a team player which does cause some conflict with his colleagues however he is also very single minded which I guess is pretty useful in dealing with the drudgery of detective work.
I really did like the amount of variety in the cases that Rebus has to investigate, these range across the spectrum to include arson and murder. There are some nice plot twists and a sense of completion in the stories endings.
Combined togthere the stories build on thereaders understanding of Edinburgh and its underworld and they are a fun entertaining read that will I guess appeal to existing Rebus fans and new ones as well.
This is a collection of short stories, featuring Ian Rankin's most famous Detective, Inspector John Rebus. As a follow on from my review of Rankin's 14th Rebus novel, A Question of Blood, I have just read A Good Hanging (and other stories) written by Rankin in 1992, just five years after the first Rebus book.
Born in the Kingdom of Fife (the same as Rebus), in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh and has since been employed as a grape-picker, swineherd, taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist and punk musician. His first Rebus novel, _Knots & Crosses_, was published in 1987 and the Rebus books have now been translated into 26 languages. Here is a list of his achievements:
* Hawthornden Fellow
* 1997 CWA Macallan Gold Dagger - _Black & Blue_
* 2004 - Edgar Award (USA) for Best Novel - _Resurrection Men_
* 2005 - BBA Best Crime Thriller - _Fleshmarket Close_
* 2002 OBE for services to literature
* 1999 Honorary Doctorate from Abertay, Dundee
* 2001 Honorary Doctorate from St. Andrews
* 2003 Honorary Doctorate from Edinburgh
* 2005 Honorary Doctorate from the Open University
* _Black & Blue_, _The Hanging Garden_, _Dead Souls_ and _Mortal Causes_ have been televised with John Hannah starring as Rebus
* _The Falls, Fleshmarket Close, The Black Book, A Question of Blood, Strip Jack, Let it Bleed, Resurrection Men, The Naming of the Dead_ and _Knots & Crosses_ have been televised with Ken Stott starring as Rebus.
_For those of you who have no knowledge of the John Rebus series by Ian Rankin, here is a brief history._
Ian Rankin thought up the idea of John Rebus whilst at university in 1985. Rebus himself was born in 1947 in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. He had a troubled childhood with his mum dying young, and joined the army after leaving school. After years touring with the army in Northern Ireland, Rebus decided to try out for the SAS, but the mental side of the training ruined his soldiers mind and was offered a route out with the Lothian and Borders police.
This is where the series of books picks Rebus up, and during the early books he still ahs contact with his wife and daughter. However as the series plays on, Rebus becomes a loner who is interested in only one thing - his work. Rankin often introduces characters into the series who could become Rebus' genuine friends, only for them to be killed or disappear from his life in some way - adding to his collection of 'ghosts'.
=== A Good Hanging ===
As already mentioned, this is a collection of short stories written by Ian Rankin in 1992, in the midst of the early years of John Rebus, around the time he made the step up from DS to DI. For this reason, the book features characters from the early Rebus books, who do not make it to the later books such as his colleague and friend, DC Brian Holmes, and the DSI Frank 'Fort' Lauderdale. Brian unfortunately died in _The Black Book_, adding to Rebus' collection of ghosts. For an avid Rebus fan such as myself, it is fascinating to look deeper in the world of the troubled Inspector, as the stories in the short story books are the 'real' cases, the smaller ones in-between the main novels.
There are 12 stories in this book in total, written in seemingly chronological order as in some of them it refers to events in previous stories, as is the case in many of the main novels.
The perfect murder - or so it seems. A woman has seemingly called in to Lothian and Borders police admitting killing her husband, but when they get there she pleads innocence. She is about to be charged, until Rebus steps in. . . .
_The Dean Curse_
A retired army Major's car blows up with him seeming to be the target of a terrorist bomb. Rebus, having experience of Northern Ireland, is the man to look into the case. . .
One of the shorter stories, in the book, Rebus meets up with one of his many 'contacts' on a park bench to solve some petty crimes. . .
When a body is found under a cellar floor, Rebus does some digging, but not just literally. He discovers that there was more to a business deal in the 60's than meets the eye. . .
In an Edinburgh park some schoolgirls claim to have Jesus. Rebus soon discovers that the apparition was less holy than first thought. . .
_A Good Hanging_
During the Edinburgh Festival a dress rehearsal goes wrong, or so it seems until DI Rebus steps in. . . .
_Tit for Tat_
A man is in hospital with burns after somebody put a petrol bomb through his front door. Meanwhile, Rebus discovers that the man liked bird watching, and not always the bearded tit variety. . .
When a suspect that Rebus thought was certain to go down gets off Scotch free, he has to find a way to prove that he was indeed guilty. . .
Not encountering any crime, just a day in the life of Inspector John Rebus.
_Auld Lang Syne_
New Years Eve, and Rebus is on the lookout for a drugs deal that's supposed to be going down. When he meets up with an old adversary, Rebus is made to look stupid. . .
_The Gentlemen's Club_
The suicide of a girl seems to be an unfortunate accident, that is until Rebus does some investigation into the girl and her best friend's Tuesday afternoon activities. . .
Even with a French constable on a day trip who unfortunately for Rebus is called Cluzeau, and 15 angry women to contend with, Rebus manages to solve the mystery of a missing sculpture. . .
=== What the Critics Say ===
'Britain's finest detective novelist' _Scotland on Sunday_
'[Rebus] is a superbly drawn character; matched by the edgy authenticity of the Scottish locale and dialogue' _Sunday Times_
'Very ambitious and very confident with acute observation of the not so bonny side of Scotland' _Daily Telegraph_
=== Recommended? ===
Without a doubt, I would recommend any fan of this genre to read it. And because of the nature of the book, being short stories rather than a novel fitting into a greater series, it can be read at any time, be it you have never read a Rebus book before, you are halfway through the series or have read them all (indeed, for me, it was nice to be reminded of some of the earlier characters).
=== Availability ===
Despite being published for the first time over 15 years ago, and being republished in 1998, it has not been republished again since. It is still available from the below selected retailers:
* www.play.com - £5.49
* www.amazon.co.uk - £4.19
* www.waterstones.com - £5.19
Thanks for reading
A Good Hanging is one of twelve short stories to be found in this Ian Rankin written book featuring his most famous creation Detective Inspector Frank Rebus who is currently gracing our TV screens. This was my first experience of Rebus either in the written form or the small screen and having ran out of reading material on holiday I thought this would be a suitable lend from friends as the format of short stories meant that if I did not get to the end of the book when the time came around to return to good old Blighty I would not be left wondering what happened at the end.
The fact that these stories are incredibly easy to read and quite engrossing meant that I fairly whipped through the book in a day and a half and it certainly helped remind me of why I do occasionally enjoy reading a series of short stories as a welcome variation from the normal full length works of fiction.
Set in Edinburgh and thus drawing on the cities seedier side of crime and deceit the portrayal of Rebus is of an experienced no nonsense inspector who uses his deep knowledge of the criminal mind and a wide reaching web of contacts to solve a whole host of crimes. My only real criticism of these stories was a very personal point of view in that I did not really warm to the character of Rebus in fact at times I found him coming across as rather smug with an air of superiority. This may be down to the format of the short stories and it is hard to judge whether this annoyance would continue in a longer book where other characters are developed into the storyline because in this series of short stories there is no real opportunity to develop any other characters as the stories are not really linked. The only real continuity of characters is provided between a couple of stories that touch on an air of dissatisfaction amongst one of the junior detectives at the lack of development they receive from Rebus due to his habit of keeping things close to his chest.
However this one criticism is outweighed by a number of positives that does make this a book I would recommend to others whether you are new to the character or a long term fan. Firstly I really did like the amount of variety in the cases that Rebus has to investigate, there are a number of murders to solve however there are also cases concerning arson, blackmail and a tale of revenge. What I like about this is the way that even the most mundane of situations can be developed into an interesting and sometimes quirky story that holds the readers interest and helps to keep you guessing even though the subject matter is sometimes told over a dozen or so pages. Indeed one of the stories, called Sunday, is recounted by giving an insight into Rebus rather sad home life following a rather nasty incident the night before.
The second positive about this series of short stories is in the vivid way that Rankin portrays the Edinburgh scene drawing on the many features of the city both geographical and social as well as using the festival to provide the backdrop to a couple of stories. In fact the title story A Good Hanging uses the rather strange acts found at the fringe to form the basis of a rather interesting story.
W third positive is that the writing style is easy to follow and moves at a nice even pace. Even though the book is based in Edinburgh and Rebus is a somewhat stereotypical policeman you will not need a translator to understand the dialect unlike some of the Irvine Welsh books that I have read.
For me the two strongest stories are The Gentlemans Club which is a rather grim investigation into a young girl suicide and Tit for Tat which centres on an attempted arson attack. In addition to these two the rather quirky Being Frank was a good read as was Auld Lang Syne which finds Rebus meeting someone from down memory lane whilst on a drugs stakeout and there is the rather tongue in cheek Monstrous Trumpet which features an Inspector Clouseau and provides a little light relief as it is the last story in the book.
Whether or not this book will inspire me to go on to read more in the Rebus series Im not sure, at the end of the book you do get a taster of Knots and Crosses a full length novel and certainly it was quite an interesting opening. Currently I have a number of books to read however I would consider one of these if stuck for choice.
A Good Hanging is definitely worth checking out in my opinion as it is an excellent example of quality short story writing which is a different art to the longer writing format of full length novels and is ideal if you are travelling by either train or plane as you can dip in and out of it at your leisure.
Apparently this was the fourth book to be published by Rankin to feature Rebus and I believe that there are now about 16 books featuring the detective, no doubt if I'm wrong one of his many fans will correct me in the comments section.
Published by Orion the rrp is £6.99 however it is available on Amazon for £5.59 new or from as little as a penny in the new and used section. It would also be worth checking out the library as Rankin is a popular author in most libraries that I have visited. For those who are interested the ISBN is 0-75280-943-1.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.
~ ~ Ive long been an avid fan of Scots author Ian Rankin, in particular of his detective novels featuring the irreverent, irascible, irritable, hard drinking Edinburgh police inspector John Rebus. Once Rebus gets under your skin you very quickly get addicted, and can barely contain yourself as you wait for the next Rebus mystery to flow from the keyboard of the much feted Mr. Rankin. Fortunately, the wait is nearly over as a brand new Rebus novel called The Naming Of The Dead is due for release in October, 2006.
~ ~ In the meantime Ive been reduced to re-reading some of my Rebus collection of novels, and with sixteen to choose from Im truly spoilt for choice. A good novel (like a good movie) is something I can return to time after time, despite the fact that I already know the story and the theme.
So it was I found myself re-visiting one of Rankins earlier Rebus offerings, a book of twelve short stories called A Good Hanging - And Other Stories first published way back in 1992, and only the fourth book to feature Rebus who first hit the bookshelves in the novel Knots And Crosses in 1987.
~ ~ To write a good short story is a different discipline compared to writing a good novel. By their very nature theyre, well, short, which means the author doesnt get the same opportunity to develop the characters, and theres very little in the way of sub-plots, something which Rankin has made an art form in the Rebus books. What we have in A Good Hanging is a short sharp fix for dedicated Rebus addicts; twelve little cameos of the infamous Rebus that will leave you gasping for more. None of the stories are more than thirty pages long, and most are much shorter, which means you can dip your toe in and finish a story in jig time!
~ ~ Some of the stories are better than others, but all manage to entertain.
A Good Hanging, from which the book takes its title, is about an apparent macabre suicide, when an English student visiting Edinburgh to take part in a Festival Fringe play is found hanging from one of his own props (a gallows) on the Royal Mile. But is it suicide or something more sinister?
One of my own favourites is a rather light hearted wee tale called Monstrous Trumpet, where a piece of valuable erotic art goes missing and the suspects are all ladies of high social standing. Rebus is helped to solve the mystery by an elegant and handsome visiting French policeman called Inspector Cluzeau, an obvious play on the comedy about the bumbling policeman of the same name made famous by the late, great Peter Sellers.
A slightly darker offering is simply called Sunday, when we get a small cameo of Rebus relaxing in his apartment on his only day of rest. What makes it different is that he is reflecting on the recent accidental stabbing of a suspect during a scuffle, and theres no story as such, just a look into the mind of the Inspector as he contemplates his life and what it all means.
Another favourite is called Not Provan, a play on words about the unique verdict of not proven that can be handed down in Scottish law courts, which has the same result as a not guilty verdict but basically means we know you did it, but we cant prove it. Here Rebus is hot on the track of a young tearaway called Willie Provan, who he KNOWS is guilty of savagely beating a visitor to the city. But can he prove it?
~ ~ Ive given you just a glimpse of four of my own particular favourites from the twelve short stories in this collection of Rebus yarns. All are good, but ultimately the book suffers a little from the very fact that the stories are *SHORT*, and thus Rankin doesnt get the opportunity to develop his themes and characters in the same depth as he is renowned for in his full length novels. Some of the stories are obviously themes that Rankin had considered developing into books in their own right. Others give the impression that they were sub-plots that somehow didnt make it into a novel, and which have been adapted a little to fit into this short story collection.
~ ~ What the book *DOES* do is give the reader a good introduction to the hero of Rankins novels, Inspector John Rebus. I would highly recommend it both to Rebus addicts (like myself) and to anyone who is unfamiliar with Rankins work and wants to simply dip their toe in the water to get a taste of his work.
~ ~ Its so long since I bought this book that I simply cant remember where I actually bought it or how much it cost. The list price for the paperback edition (published in 1998) is £6.99, but its available new at Amazon at £5.59, or used from only £0.01.
Paperback 288 pages (June 1, 1998)
Publisher: Orion mass market paperback
© KenJ June 2006
Edinburgh is a city steeped in history and tradition, a seat of learning, of elegant living, known as the 'Athens of the North'. But that isn't all. The city's flip-side is a city of grudges, blackmail, violence, greed and fear - where past and present clash and old wounds fester. In any year Detective Inspector John Rebus can expect gang warfare, murder, assault and battery at the very least. In this collection he investigates the hanging of a student actor during the Festival, an arson attack on a bird watcher and the witnessing of an apparent miracle.