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This is the second book in the Rebus series and it picks up John Rebus' life a few months after the end of 'Knots and Crosses'.
Ian Rankin has again done a good job in depicting the Detective Inspector in Edinburgh as well as his descriptions of 'how the other half lives' from dilapidated squats to restaurants where paying £200 a head for lunch is not uncommon. The way the story runs in this novel is in 'days' rather than shorter chapters. This has its good points and bad points. In the good section you have the way the investigation goes in a good chronological order and the fact the novel is not padded out with 'the next morning' sections in the text. On the negative is that it does make the 'chapters' rather long. There are however breaks in these 'days' where it moves from the main investigation to a more minor one where it can be put down.
Rankin's style of writing is in my opinion quite high up in this genre of writing. The specific genre is described as Tartan Noir rather than pure crime fiction. This is a writing style which has its roots in Scottish Literature such as the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. The original Tartan Noir novels dwelt on the nature of good and evil and the issues of redemption, salvation and damnation amongst others. More recently some influence from US writing of the more 'hard boiled' style of writing have also been included.
He has good character descriptions of the other characters. His description of Rebus himself is perhaps slightly lacking but it was well covered in his previous novel. His ability to bring these two different worlds within the same city together is also excellent. He is able to develop sympathy from the reader for one particular dweller of the squats whilst building up a dislike for some of the others.
In a rather undesirable part of Edinburgh a man is pushing a woman out of the front door in a panic. Claiming 'they have murdered me'. How can someone still living say this? Especially in the past tense? The dead man's camera is also missing but surely that isn't important, is it?
DI Rebus is called in to investigate. How was this man killed, why was he killed, and just why has a pentagram been drawn on the wall of the room the body was found in?
Rebus has to investigate and go into the darker side of Edinburgh life, from unhelpful family members and friends of the dead man to covens and witchcraft, someone must know something, but if they do will they tell......
What I thought of it:
In all it is a well written novel and the main plot and sub plots do tie in together well. As do some of the sub plots with Rebus' personal life. In his writing Rankin has drawn up a much darker side to the city of Edinburgh, a side the tourists do not normally see. Parts of the city where someone will do almost anything to get money for their next 'fix'. A part which is largely ignored by the population of the city. Not because they don't know about it, but because they don't want to know about it.
The main plot in the story is strong and the small number of sub plots is also highly believable and they tie into the main story very well. The plot is not as disturbing as 'knots and crosses' and there are many sections where the book is un-put downable. The only gripe I have is the jumping around between these during the 'chapters'. Whilst this does give a better impression of what all the characters are doing at the same time it can get a bit confusing at times.
My other gripe is quite common with books I read and that is the fact it is over run with lesser characters some of which add nothing to the actual storyline. I found at least two of the uniformed officers to be almost instantly forgettable only for them to reappear about 50-60 pages later. This lead to the inevitable turning back through the book to find out 'who was that again?' Perhaps a note pad and pen to take character note would help me next time.
The real reason why this novel, I think, works so well is that Rankin's story is believable to a great extent. Whether a real DI would make some of the mistakes Rebus makes in this novel are another matter. The plot is worked through in a manner which does make it sound more like police work rather than the instant 'It was him/her we get in some crime fiction. This is where the splitting the novel into 'days' rather than much smaller chapters appears to have worked well.
In some respects Rebus is a bit like Poirot in that things seem to fall into place over one or two seemingly innocuous comments from lesser characters. Although the reader does not realise this at the time. However, Rebus is also quite prepared to get his hands dirty, quite literally at times, if it will help solve the case.
In the books conclusion the loose ends are tied up well and the main plot and sub plots do all come together but as always there is one final twist. The end of the novel does not leave everything up in the air like some books can. The style of the writing is what I would call a 'middle of the road' read. It is not as easy to read as say an Agatha Christie is but also no where near as heavy as a Ruth Rendell.
This was a worth wile read and whilst I rarely read a book more than once due to having a photographic memory this one might go into the pile which I may re-read in a couple of years time. It is well written and the plot does hold up well. There are times where the book becomes one where you don't want to put down but the constant jumping about between the main plot and sub plot may annoy some.
I was in the mood for a long soak in the bath the other night but had nothing new to read. So I decided to go routing through my husband Dave's bookshelf and dug out this book called Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin. As a general rule it is my husband who is the crime thriller fan but I do like to indulge at times too. So this book appealed to me as a one-off novelty read and I got stuck in.
I found this book terribly easy to read which is no real surprise given that it is a book of Dave's! I liked that this was easy reading rather than something I really had to concentrate on though. I also liked that the book picked up right from the outset and that I did not have to read hundreds of pages of background information before I got anywhere.
This story is all about a detective called Rebus who is not sure whether or not there is a case for him to solve or not. He has found a heroin addict who appears to have overdosed but there are suspicious hints all around the crime scene that this is no ordinary overdose.
Rebus is on the case working with and against a series of simple detective characters to unearth the truth. Eventually he does of course, but the truth is nothing like he expected it to be.
The style and the characters are all very simply done. There is nothing new or challenging about this book and it is no great work of art. It is a really enjoyable easy read though and one that I rather enjoyed. I think this is definetely written by a man, for a man although I did not feel the author was exclusive in this, it was just his style.
If you would like to buy a copy then this is only £3 from Amazon at present. I read this book in a matter of hours so it might be worth seeing if you could borrow this from the library rather than buy it. I really enjoyed the story but having read it once, I see no reason to read it again. It is not the sort of deep or profound book that is going to reveal anything new to me on a second journey through.