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The author Jack Harvey is actually a pseudonym for the best selling Scottish crime fiction writer Ian Rankin, who is famous for his creation of Inspector John Rebus, the infamous Edinburgh detective now immortalised forever in both book at film. (TV series)
As a Rebus fan of long standing (who always pre-ordered the latest Rebus novel at Amazon) I suppose it was inevitable that eventually I'd get around to reading this short series of three "non-Rebus" crime novels written by Rankin while he was living in the South of France in the early 1990's, at a time when neither Rankin nor Rebus had not yet gained universal popularity and acceptance, and both Rankin and his main character still had a rather uncertain future.
The time was right when Rankin finally retired Rebus back at the end of 2007 in the last (or is it?) novel in the long running Rebus series "Exit Music". So when I came across an omnibus edition of the Jack Harvey novels for only £1.50 in an Oxfam shop in Portobello in Edinburgh during a short visit to my home city this summer it was purchased immediately to supply me with some holiday reading material. (50p per novel can't be bad!)
I was somewhat apprehensive, as the only other non-Rebus novel by Rankin that I'd read was a totally dire crime novel called "Watchman", written very early in Rankin's writing career (in the two weeks while he was on honeymoon in fact!) and only published as an afterthought (or more accurately to pick up some extra royalties!) by the publisher's Orion back in 2004. But I needn't have worried. This set of three Jack Harvey novels are well worth the read, if not quite up to Rankin's later high standards in the Rebus series.
The series consists of three books; "Witch Hunt", "Bleeding Heart", and "Blood Hunt". All are crime novels in their own right, with no crossover of characters as in the Rebus series.
The first novel, "Witch Hunt", is about a deadly female terrorist/assassin; not so uncommon these days but still fairly rare back in the early 1990's.
The second book "Bleeding Heart" is again about a deadly assassin, but this time of the male variety, who takes out his victims with a long range sniper's rifle.
And the last (and probably best) novel, "Blood Hunt", is about an ex-SAS operative's quest to find out who murdered his brother over in San Diego.
I won't go into great detail about the plots of each individual novel, but suffice to say that if you are a Rankin fan then I guarantee you won't be disappointed with any of the three. While not quite hitting the literary heights that he later achieved with his latter Rebus novels, and never likely to win any awards, they are all tight, terse crime/adventure thrillers written by a master craftsman of the crime genre and all worthy of a read.
I chose the last novel, "Blood Hunt", as my personal favourite, because what the author does here is to base his main character Gordon Reeve on Inspector John Rebus, except in this case he speculates what might have become of Rebus if he hadn't joined the Scottish police force after his stint in the army and Special Forces. Thus we find Gordon Reeve running an adventure playground for top executives in the remote reaches of the Scottish Highlands. But all that changes dramatically when his brother is brutally murdered over in the USA!
There's lots of interesting details about the Jack Harvey novels over on Ian Rankin's own website. (http://www.ianrankin.net/) For instance the name Jack Harvey came from a combination of his son's first name and his wife's maiden name. You can even read a chapter from each online at the site to see whether or not they're books that you'd enjoy.
All three books are available individually at Amazon and in all good bookshops. (From only a measly 1 pence up secondhand at Amazon!) The omnibus edition that I purchased is available there too at £10.49 new and from £0.76 used.
Recommended as good reads in their own right, and especially if you are already a Ian Rankin fan.
© KenJ November 2008