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Fleshmarket Close - Ian Rankin

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3 Reviews

Author: Ian Rankin / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 07 August 2008 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: Fleshmarket Close / ISBN 13: 9780752883670 / ISBN 10: 0752883670 / Alternative EAN: 9780752865638

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    3 Reviews
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      18.01.2008 12:05
      Very helpful



      Another in the DI Rebus series

      This is the 15th instalment in the series of books written by Ian Rankin focussing on the maverick Detective Inspector John Rebus. This is one of the best known books in the series, as it was one of the most highly acclaimed TV Rebus' to be screened. The book itself won Ian Rankin the Edgar Award in the USA for best crime novel in 2004.

      === The Author - _Ian Rankin_ ===

      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.

      === The Star - _John Rebus_ ===

      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 has 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'.

      === Fleshmarket Close ===

      In my opinion this is. . .

      It is written in the same style as the previous Rebus novel, _A Question of Blood_, with the book encompassing a week, and Rankin divides the book into the days, starting with Monday.

      As with most of the Rebus novels there are two storylines in the book and Rankin cleverly intertwines the two cases to involve both Rebus and his ally, (upgraded from sidekick!) DS Siobhan Clarke.

      The start of the book sees Rebus' police station closed for refurbishment and officers are shipped out all over Scotland the time of this refurbishment. DI Rebus is not initially assigned a station to move to, and he takes this as a sign that those in power above him are hinting that they want him to move on. Obviously, Rebus is not going to accept this and follows Siobhan to Gayfield Square, where she has been posted. Here he finds himself without a desk, just planted on a table shared only by the coffee maker. He doesn't care though, and ploughs on diligently with his work, never stopping until he has the answers he is loking for.

      The first storyline we pick up on is the sudden appearance of a human skeleton in the cellar of a pub that is being refurnished. This is the case Siobhan takes on, whilst Rebus gets himself involved in the death of an immigrant in one of Edinburgh's hardest housing schemes, Knoxland - a true concrete jungle of high rise tower blocks and drug addicts.

      How will Rebus solve the mystery of the murder, when nothing is known about the man who died? How will his relationship with DS Clarke survive when he dates somebody with opposite views to her? And how will Siobhan solve the mystery of Mag Lennox?

      === The Setting ===

      Obviously, most of the book is set around Edinburgh. However, Rebus makes the odd trip to the west coast and Glasgow, and one of the storylines is based around Banehall, a small town near Livingston, half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

      === The Characters ===

      * DI John Rebus - see above
      * DS Siobhan Clarke - Rebus' faithful ally who always sticks by him. This really could be a turning point for the two of them. . .
      * DS Ellen Wylie - officer at Gayfield Square, she has appeared in earlier novels
      * DCI Macrae - the boss at Gayfield Square
      * DS Reynolds - officer at Gayfield Square, disagrees with Rebus on issues of race
      * Jardine Family - the family Siobhan has offered to help regarding their daughter going missing
      * DC Phyllida Hawes - officer at Gayfield Square
      * Mo Dirwan - Asian lawyer who befriends Rebus when he saves him from a raciel attack
      * Morris Gerald Cafferty - Rebus' old adversary who he pops in for a chat with in the middle of the novel - and more
      * Donny Cruikshank - the man who raped the Jardines' eldest daughter and still lives in the town of Banehall
      * Caro Quinn - human rights protester who Rebus gets a little too close to
      * Lex Cater - one of the students who stole the skeleton that Siobhan finds
      * Felix Storey - immigration officer working alongside Rebus

      === The Issues ===

      As always, Rankin steps close to the line here and deals with illegal immigration as the main issue. This is a topic that is popular within the tabloid press, and always sparks a lot of debate when brought up in conversation at the pub, or elsewhere. He portrays it very evenly, with Rebus being the soft, calming voice in defence of the immigrants (his granddad was Polish) and Charlie 'Rat-arse' Reynolds being the hard-line nationalist. Within this Rankin explores other topics such as families dealing with death and the attitude of the housing schemes towards these incomers. The line that sums up Rebus' attitude towards immigration and how natives think of them is early in the book when talking to a young lad from one of these housing schemes who is talking negatively about immigrants, and in response Rebus' muses to himself 'and just what is your sum contribution to humanity laddy'! There are other issues, such as families dealing with rape and consequential suicide in the form of the Jardines and also young girls going into prostitution - a seemingly growing trend in Britain.

      === 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? ===

      Obviously, I would recommend this book to anybody; however that is me with my fanatic's hat on, not my book reviewer's hat. If you have never read a Rebus novel before, I would not recommend you to begin with this one. The book is amongst the longest of the novels, and the plot thickens immeasurably towards the end. However, if you have dipped your toe in Loch Rebus before then I highly recommend it.

      === Availability ===

      * www.play.com - £5.49
      * www.amazon.co.uk - £4.89
      * www.waterstones.com - £6.99

      Thanks for reading


      © Martin24 (MMVIII)
      (published as martin0201 on Ciao)


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      • More +
        05.10.2005 16:35
        Very helpful



        Rankin at his best. A must buy for "Rebus" fans

        ~ ~ Illegal immigrants, dead illegal immigrants, Ulster Loyalist drug traders, Edinburgh gangsters, lap dancers, mysterious buried skeletons, rapists, porn merchants, and a missing Scottish teenager. These are just some of the ingredients, characters, plots and sub-plots that go to make up the latest novel, “Fleshmarket Close”, from the master Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin.

        ~ ~ Rankin has long been one of my favourite crime writers, and his fictional Scottish copper, Detective Inspector Rebus, one of my favourite fictional crime characters. Fleshmarket Close is the latest in a long line of successful Inspector Rebus novels, the first (Knots and Crosses) being published way back in 1988 before Rankin had even decided to become a full time writer.
        What prompted me to put fingers to keyboard and write a review of this novel was listening to an excellent interview with Rankin on Irish radio (Radio Telefeis Eireann) recently in which he talked at length about his writing and life in general. He revealed titbits of information about his personal life and his writing career that I hadn’t been fully aware of before, the most fascinating of which was the fact that he struggled for about seven or eight years before finally making the breakthrough from a run of the mill novelist into the elite ranks of the bestsellers. It was only after his eighth Rebus novel, “Black and Blue”, won the prestigious Golden Dagger Award for the best crime fiction novel of the year in the mid-1990’s that Rankin hit the big time, and his novels began to move of the bookshelves like the proverbial hot potatoes. Since that time his career has gone from strength to strength, his books consistently topping the bestseller lists and culminating in his recently receiving an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) for his services and contribution to literature.

        ~ ~ As is the norm in Rankin’s novels, the plot in this most recent “Rebus” novel is somewhat secondary to his brilliant characterisation. I’ve read every Rebus novel Rankin has written over the past two decades (most more than once), and over the space of fifteen books Detective Inspector John Rebus has become almost an old friend. Rankin has a way of really getting his characters across so that the reader very quickly gets a feel for them and empathises with their lives, situations, and problems.
        The plot, or rather should I say the three main plots, are simple enough in their conception. An illegal immigrant has been found murdered on a sink estate in Edinburgh called “Knoxland”, that anyone with any knowledge of Edinburgh (it’s my home city) will have no difficulty whatsoever recognising as Wester Hailes. Meanwhile a teenage girl whose sister was brutally raped and subsequently committed suicide has gone missing from home. And lastly, two skeletons (one a child) have been unearthed in Fleshmarket Close, an alley just off the Royal Mile.
        Of course, none of Rankin’s plots are THAT simple, and all are interlaced with various sub-plots just to keep the pot boiling and hold the reader’s interest. As usual, Rankin very neatly manages to tie together all the loose ends by the end of the book.

        ~ ~ It’s amazing how Rebus caught the book reading public’s imagination in the way he did. In reality, there’s nothing particularly new about the characterisation of Rebus. The model of the hard nosed detective with a strong disregard for authority, usually with problems in his personal relationships, and often a drinking problem, has been used by other crime writers almost as a template for success over the years. Think of Raymond Chandler and his character “Micky Spillane”, Colin Dexter and “Inspector Morse”, and James Patterson and “Alex Cross” to name just a few. But Rankin certainly has the touch when it comes to bringing his characters to life, and Rebus ranks right up there with the great fictional detectives down through the years. To use the Scot’s vernacular, as Rankin himself does so well, “long may yir lum reek”. (May his chimney go on burning for a long time, or may he have a long and prosperous life, for all you Sassenachs out there!)

        ~ ~ On a sad note, this book could well be one of the last few of the Rebus series. It’s been mooted in literary circles for quite some time that Rankin is seriously considering killing off or retiring the irreverent Scottish inspector and moving onto pastures new in his writing. We get some clues in Fleshmarket Close that this may well be the case. Rebus has been moved from his resident police station, (St. Leonards) and is now almost an afterthought at Gayfield Square, just off Leith Walk in Edinburgh. Thoughts about retirement are voiced by Rebus throughout the book, and it’s obvious that his superiors would like to see him go. But I would predict at least another two books in the Rebus series before Rankin eventually decides to call it a day on Rebus. (If, in fact, he ever does!)
        On the positive front (for Rebus fans) is the news that Rankin revealed in his interview on Irish radio that two more of the Rebus novels (Fleshmarket Close and The Falls) are to be turned into TV dramatisations, with the superb Scottish actor Ken Stott taking over the lead role of Rebus from John Hannah, who in my opinion never quite had the maturity to play the part successfully. So that’s something to look forward to immensely!
        Talking about the new upcoming TV series, Rankin also revealed in his radio interview that he didn’t watch the original four dramatisations starring John Hannah, and that he has no intention of watching the new series starring Ken Stott. Seemingly he has his own picture of Rebus firmly set in his mind, and doesn’t want it corrupted by any outside influences.

        ~ ~ If you’ve never read any of Rankin’s Rebus novels, and if you’re a fan of crime fiction, then do yourself a huge favour and start to do so soon. I wouldn’t advise you to start with Fleshmarket Close, but to go back right to the beginning of the series of Rebus books. (Knots and Crosses) That way you’ll get months (if not years!) of reading pleasure from this outstanding Scottish fiction author.
        I bought my copy of Fleshmarket Close in hardback at my local bookshop about a year ago not long after it was published at a cost of €16.20. It’s currently on offer in hardback at Amazon for £12.59, but has also recently been released in paperback. I’m not exactly sure of the price, but I think it’s selling at about the €10 mark.
        Highly, highly recommended by the mad cabbie.


        ISBN number: 0752851128
        Publisher: Orion. (2004)
        Published in the USA under the title “Fleshmarket Alley”


        © KenJ October 2005



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        • More +
          31.01.2005 10:15
          Very helpful



          Full review

          I don't often buy fiction in hardback: it's expensive and only the very best is reread. I do make an exception for the Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin though, as quite a few family and friends will read the book. Actually, that's just my rationalisation – I can't wait for the paperback edition to find out what's happening in the Rebus world.

          The body of an illegal immigrant is found in Knoxland, one of Edinburgh's most notorious housing schemes. There's a host of questions to be answered, ranging from the basic "who is he?" through to the more complex reasons for the murder. Rebus has other things on his mind too. His old police station has closed down and the powers-that-be are making it clear that they would prefer him to retire, but Rebus doesn't really have a life to retire to. Asked what he'd do he says that he'd get liver disease – he's already made the down payment.

          Rebus' protégé, Siobhan Clarke, is looking into the disappearance of a teenage girl, whose sister committed suicide after being raped. Coincidentally, the rapist has just been released from prison. She's also got the problem of two skeletons found under the cement floor of a pub in Fleshmarket Close, which seem to be part of an elaborate hoax, but to what end?

          Few people can claim to have only the blood of their homeland flowing in their veins. Most have immigrants further up the family tree. Rebus has a Polish grandfather and this makes him more sympathetic to the plight of the residents of an asylum-seekers' detention centre. I have sympathy for asylum seekers, whatever their reason for leaving their home country, and I found the descriptions of the lives of the immigrants moving. The facts have been carefully researched and the bleak impossibility of it all is well presented. You're not bludgeoned with the facts but quite the reverse. Immigration isn't one of my "causes", but I found myself reading from the websites which Rankin recommends for further information.

          Asylum is obviously very much a current issue. Tied in with this is the standard of housing on some of the sink estates on the fringes of prosperous cities. Knoxland doesn't exist, but I could imagine the reality of living where "you could hear the neighbours cutting their toenails and smell their dinner on the stove". It's easy to see how racism gets a foothold, easier still to see the depths to which people are forced to sink just to make a living. One of the ways is the sex industry. The descriptions are evocative, but not explicit.

          I've always been in awe of Rankin's ear for dialect. He never falls into the trap of producing dialect as pantomime as so many writers do, but you'd know where the story's set even without the descriptions of Edinburgh. Rankin lives in the city and travels on public transport. He knows it like the back of his hand and loves it: that comes through in the book.

          Organised crime features in a number of the Rebus novels and there is an element of it in this novel. It isn't a storyline which greatly appeals to me, but it's not overworked in the book.

          This is a cracking story. I read the 400 or so pages in a day and a half when I really should have been doing something else. There are a number of complex plot lines which interact well and the resolution didn't seem in the least contrived. The ending is particularly satisfying: I didn't see it coming despite the fact that all the clues were there. It's utterly readable too. You don't have to work at it – my problem was putting it down!

          This is the sixteenth book in the Rebus series and I find it remarkable that they are as fresh as ever. There are still fresh insights into the personalities of the characters who appear throughout the series. With each new book they develop and grow, although it's always the plots which dominate the novels rather than the characters. You don't need to have read the preceding books to enjoy Fleshmarket Close, but you will get more from it if you've read at least some of the earlier novels. The first novel in the series is "Knots and Crosses" which is available either on its own or as part of "Rebus, the early years".

          So, will it be your sort of book? If you're a fan of the 'posh detectives' of P D James and Elizabeth George novels then I'm afraid that you might find the Rebus novels a little too gritty. If you like the blood and gore of Patricia Cornwell then you might find Rankin a little tame. I'm a big fan of Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen novels and there are many similarities, although I would say that Rankin's writing is the more consistent. If you like a good detective story then I doubt that any of the Rebus novels will disappoint you.

          Quick facts:

          ISBN: 0752851128

          Cover price: £17.99, but currently available on Amazon at £12.59. It will be published in paperback on 4 April 2005.

          Publisher: Orion.


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          Fleshmarket Close is not one of the best of Rankin's John Rebus thrillers, but his second-best is still more than excellent. Middle age is catching up with Rebus--he currently has no desk as a none-too-subtle hint from his superiors that he should seek retirement--but he and his friend and protegee Siobhan, who is still not his lover, race around investigating a variety of seemingly unconnected cases… The sister of a dead rape victim is missing; stolen medical skeletons turn up embedded in a concrete floor; a Kurdish journalist is brutally killed; the son of a Glasgow ganglord has moved in to the Edinburgh vice scene.

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