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This is the third Ian Rankin novel I have read since I bought the full set of his novels in hardback from one of those book clubs for £6.99 each. Crime fiction has been one of my favourite types of fiction for some years and after reading the first two Rebus novels I had high hopes of this one.
Although this book is now printed under the title 'tooth and nail' is was originally published under the name of Wolfman.
My copy of this novel has 275 pages, although this is a smaller 'book club' version of the novel so one bought in a regular high street shop would possibly have fewer than this.
John Rebus has been sent down to London to assist the Met with a rather unusual serial killer case. Rebus is not fond of the idea and he soon takes a dislike to some of the Met officers. This feeling in most cases is more than mutual.
The murderer given the name 'the wolfman' by the police is going to be hard to find, s/he has left no clues, nothing for the police to go on except the rather odd modus operandi which although is obvious what it is still looks rather odd.....
Rebus is against more than just the clock in this case, can he discover the truth before the wolfman strikes again and also make his daughter realise that her new boyfriend isn't good enough for her....
What I thought of it.
The actual sub-genre Ian Rankin's books fall into is known as 'Tartan Noir' with John Rebus fulfilling the roll of the anti-hero and again as in the first two novels he hardly instills sympathy from the reader. As for how it works as crime fiction whilst it is not as hard going as some of Ruth Rendell's books there is more to it than say an Agatha Christie.
I find the Rankin's books that I have read to be darker than most crime novels and this one particularly goes in the direction of the more psychological side of the crime novel. The novel does work as a stand alone story as well as a follow on from the first two. The only link across the novels is Rebus' relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, both of whom now live in London. For Rebus' full back story it would
probably be best to read the first Rebus novel 'Knots and Crosses' first. Rebus' dislike of his daughter's boyfriend is probably typical of a father after all he is a rather unsavoury character and a motorbike courier simply isn't good enough for his daughter, especially this one.
The novel does flow well despite the chapters being rather long so it can be hard to find somewhere to put it down for a while. There is a little jumping about between certain scenes within the novel but this does not interfere with the flow of the main plot line. There is only one major sub plot that being with Rebus and his family this is kept on the back burner so to speak throughout the majority of the novel.
Some of the characters are instantly dislikeable and not just for Rebus but also for the reader. Perhaps the most dislikeable character, other than the murderer, is that of Detective Lamb. Obnoxious and prejudiced wouldn't come close to describing Lamb's personality. George Flight, who is Rebus' opposite number in the Met, comes off far better in the like-ability stakes and you do, at times feel sorry for him for having Rebus dumped on him. Cath Farraday, George Flight's superior, however, appears to be Margaret Thatcher, Lucrezia Borgia and Ivana the Terrible rolled into one. Upsetting her is a mistake you may only be able to make once. She is the kind of person who would make the bullets but then get one of her minions to fire them.
Some of the lesser characters are, as is normal in novels, instantly forgettable. Whilst with some minor characters this is of little consequence as they only appear once others do get you flicking back through the book to find out who they are. Again as with many novels some of these characters could have been rolled into one or two more substantial roles.
I do feel that the relationship which developed between Rebus and Lisa Frazer, a psychologist who takes an interest in the crime, adds little to the storyline and in some places I feel it detracts from it. The only positives the character gives is her attempted insight into the mind of the murderer. Whilst this appears to interest Rebus (or is it just Lisa that does?) others see her as little more than an irritation and a liability.
Whilst the novel is well written I feel that the tension was only really built up towards the end of the novel when everything starts to fall into place for Rebus and especially in the car chase at the end. The evidence which stacks up during the investigation is hardly conclusive and in reality any good defence barrister would have a field day on Rebus' methods in catching the person responsible.
A well written crime novel which does take Rebus out of his comfort zone and pose more of a psychological problem. Whilst Rankin's creation of Rebus does not scream 'like me' as many other detective story writers try to do with their main character you do tend to warm to him throughout the novel. The novel has got me wanting to read the next one in the series.
My score would have been 4.5 out of 5 if Dooyoo allowed half stars.
Tooth and Nail, originally entitled Wolfman, is the third of Ian Rankin's popular Inspector Rebus novels. It was published in 1992, five years after the first; Knots and Crosses. If you haven't read any of them you may be familiar with some of the UK TV adaptations starring John Hannah and later, Ken Stott as Rebus. There was originally only going to be one book but it ended up being a series of eighteen which ended in 2007 with 'Exit Music'.
The early Rebus novels are quite different to the later ones which have a deeper sense of security and accomplishment in the writing style. The first two books, although good, were a bit raw, Rankin was still developing Rebus as a character. In this one he seems to hit his stride.
This is the only book in which Rebus is based outside of Scotland, he usually works from the city of Edinburgh, but in Tooth and Nail, he is sent down to London to help 'The Met' catch a serial killer. We first encounter him on the train heading South and sitting opposite an English rugby fan, one of many on the train disappointed because of a defeat by the Scots over the previous weekend. It's a nice touch, putting Rebus outside his comfort zone straight away and setting the tone for his reception in the English capital. He's also uncomfortable with the role he's been given, as he feels he was lucky in a previous case where he caught a serial killer, but he's glad to be out of Scotland for a while as he has, characteristically, rubbed some people up the wrong way.
It's a twisty turny tale with a few red herrings thrown in, par for the course in detective novels. It's a bit grisly, there are echoes of 'Silence of the Lambs', which Rankin admits was part of his inspiration for this book. In the introduction he tells us his editor told him to cut out a lot of the sex and violence and that this was a lesson learned, but you may be pleased, or not, to know that there are still plenty of violent and gruesome scenes in here. I won't give away too much of the plot but suffice to say it all ends in a very dramatic theatrical climax which could have been written with a film in mind. I imagine the Rebus novels in general do make good tv, although I haven't watched those that were made, but obviously the genre as a rule tends to have a lot of action. The books do become a bit quieter and cleverer as the series develops and more is left to the imagination which, in my opinion, makes them better reads. This isn't to disparage Tooth and Nail though. It has a good storyline and for someone coming to the series late it's nice to meet a younger fitter Rebus and learn some back story to characters, such as 'Big Ger' who makes his first appearance in this book and who, as fans will know, later becomes Rebus' arch enemy.
I don't know exactly what it is about Rebus that makes him such a compelling character, but for me, like many readers, the novels inspired affection for him and made me want to know more of his story. Of course they are great detective stories too, but the superb characterization makes them all the better.
I started reading Rebus almost back to front, starting with 'The Falls' and 'Fleshmarket Close' which are towards the end of the series, and have enjoyed working my through most of the rest of them in a haphazard manner. I don't think it has impaired my enjoyment to do it this way. If I had read the first one first, I may not have liked Rebus so well and gone on to read the others. I think Tooth and Nail is an improvement on the second novel, and Rankin had already made great strides after the first. The series kept on improving and it's a shame, (but also to the author's credit), that it came to an end.