“ Author: Ian Rankin / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 05 August 2010 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Subcategory: Thriller / Suspense General / Publisher: Orion Publishing Co / Title: Watchman / ISBN 13: 9781409120971 / ISBN 10: 1409120971 / Alternative EAN: 9780752877303 „
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This is like no other Ian Rankin book that I've ever read.
The book doesn't feature the well-known detective Rebus, which isn't that unusal for an Ian Rankin novel, but it doesn't feature any gripping characters at all.
The book is set in London and Northern Ireland at the time of the "Troubles", and the main character, Miles, is a spy for the British government.
The first two thirds of the book follows his antics as he bumbles through his life, messing up both his career and his marriage. The reader is introduced to many secondary characters, but none of these are explored in any great depth and are not memorable. I really struggled to follow who all the different characters were, as they were all quite bland and uninteresting, and there were so many of them.
The book picks up slightly closer to the end, with Miles having a personality transformation that isn't really accounted for.
By the end, the loose ends in the book are all supposedly tied together, but with so many characters, I don't have a clue who did what or why.
I would not recommend this book, and am surprised it is an Ian Rankin book as it doesn't feature the same level of detail or characterisation that his other books do.
From my review at Ciao;
What a boring story.
I was brought up during the heart of the troubles in Northern Ireland, and, I try to read as many novels about the troubles as possible.
So I seen this Ian Rankin book called Watchman, but decided to buy the audiobook on CD instead. I then converted it to play on PSP.
It is an 8 CD audiobook, and it is narrated by Tom Cotcher. One of the most boring voices for audiobooks. I cannot stay awake to listen to one chapter, never mind finish the book.
I was expecting great things from the author of Rebus, however, this is nothing like Rebus, and to be honest, nothing like the Northern Ireland troubles. You see, it was never actually a war, it was only a few hundred retards trying to destroy a country.
And that is one thing authors never pick up on. I might write my own book.
~ ~ Anybody who reads my reviews regularly will be aware that the mad cabbie is a HUGE fan of the Scots author Ian Rankin, and more specifically of his doughty and disreputable main character, Inspector Rebus, the Edinburgh copper. In fact, I only recently finished his latest Inspector Rebus novel Fleshmarket Close, and was feeling a wee bit down in the dumps, as having read all the other Rebus books I knew it would be a quite a while before a follow up hit the bookshelves.
~ ~ Thus it was that I happened to pick up the Rankin novel Im reviewing here, Watchman, which was first released in 1988, and which for many years was much sought after (and thus very expensive!) by Rankins many fans. Its not an Inspector Rebus book; in fact, its not even a crime novel at all. Instead its an attempt by Rankin to emulate the success of two of his own favourite authors, John Le Carre and Graham Greene, two of the masters of the spy genre.
Thats right folks, Watchman is a spy novel, or to be even more accurate, a novel about the goings on and characters within the British Secret Service, MI5.
~ ~ OK. A brief plot synopsis.
Miles Flint is a spy with MI5. Hes a watchman (hence the title of the book) which in effect means that his job is to look, listen and learn by sticking to people of interest to the Secret Service like glue, and coming up with all the dirt on them or finding out what nasty little tricks they might be up to that could threaten the security of the Realm.
Hes not a spy in the James Bond mould. No Aston Martins or glamorous ladies for our Miles. In fact, his job could best be described as boring and not too demanding, and Miles has settled into a nice, comfortable little niche. Hes got a marriage that is fast heading for the rocks, mostly because hes hardly ever there in person, and because even when he is he isnt that interested in his wife. His son is all grown up and moved away to study at University in Miles native Scotland, so he doesnt even have that responsibility to worry about any more. But Miles comfortable little world is rocked when he momentarily takes his eye of the ball, and an Israeli diplomat he is watching is murdered. Meanwhile, he strongly suspects that his wife may be having an illicit affair with one of his colleagues.
In the midst of all of these shenanigans, the IRA is carrying out an intensive and lethal bombing campaign in London, and, of course, MI5 are under intense pressure to put an end to it. Mix into the pot a gay Member of Parliament who is being blackmailed, and a hungry young investigative reporter called Jim Stevens, (who later turns up in the Rebus novels) and the plot begins to get very convoluted indeed.
Eventually, Miles is despatched to Belfast to carry out what he is told will be a simple, routine task, only to find himself the unlikely target of an IRA assassination squad!
~ ~ Enough of the plot, as to tell you any more would totally destroy your enjoyment of the book.
The main question however is WILL you enjoy the book? Well, to be quiet frank, youd have to be some sort of Rankin groupie who thinks the man could do no wrong to get any real pleasure out of this turkey! OK. Maybe Im being just a tad harsh. When alls said and done Watchman is only his third novel ever, coming a year after he first introduced us to John Rebus in Knots and Crosses (1987), and two years after he first dipped his toe into the writing game with The Flood. (1986) But I thoroughly enjoyed Knots and Crosses, while Watchman very quickly became a chore rather than a pleasure to read. To be honest, I give myself a big pat on the back for actually managing to finish it at all, although it has to be said that it took me the best part of three months to do so! This is because it became my toilet book after the first couple of chapters; the book that I leave lying in the loo to read when Ive nothing better to do while sitting on the jacksy.
~ ~ So what exactly is wrong with Watchman?
I suppose that if Id read it before reading all of Rankins superb Rebus novels, then maybe I wouldnt be quite so harsh in my criticism. But I DID read all the Rebus novels first, and unfortunately Watchman simply cant hold a candle to any of them. The main character, Miles Flint, is both underdeveloped and has no real character to speak of. The ancillary characters are even worse, and all you get is very meagre details about their lives. The plot is convoluted, slow moving, and jumps around all over the place, never really letting you get your teeth into the story at all. In fact, its hard to tell exactly where the story is actually going, or how all the different threads actually come together, until fairly near the end of the novel. The locations are nowhere nearly as interesting or earthy as the ones we get in Rebuss Edinburgh. In short, its a bad book!
~ ~ To be honest, Rankin himself almost admits that this book isnt up to his later high standards in the new introduction from the author that has been added to the paperback edition released in September 2004. (Not in as many words, but reading between the lines, if you get my drift.) He wrote the book in only a couple of months after researching it while on honeymoon, and found it extremely difficult to find a publisher who would actually take the chance of putting it into print!
That it HAS now been released in an Orion paperback speaks volumes for the avarice that abounds in the publishing world. If Rankin wasnt who he is, and of it werent for the outstanding commercial success of his series of Rebus novels, I doubt very much whether this book would ever have been re-released. I suppose you could maybe justify it by saying that early hardback copies of Watchman had been changing hands on the Internet for totally ludicrous prices before this paperback was released. (His first novel, The Flood is currently selling second hand at Amazon UK for a staggering £1,475.95!!) But if I tell you that I paid 10.45 for my paperback copy of Watchman in my local bookshop, and felt I was ripped off, then maybe that will tell you in how much regard I hold this novel!
~ ~ Not recommended by the mad cabbie. If youre a diehard Rankin fan then read it if you must, but dont say I didnt warn you. This book is *DIRE*!
Paperback: 288 pages (September 2, 2004)
Publisher: Orion paperback
Amazon Price: Reduced from £6.99 to £3.49
While Rendell, James and Walters jostle for the position of Britain's Crime Queen, things are much more straightforward when it comes to male writers: the appearance of Ian Rankin's early thriller Watchman is a reminder that Rankin is securely at the top of the tree in terms of sales, and pretty near the upper echelons in critical acclaim. His series featuring the troubled DI Rebus, with its brilliantly realised urban Scottish settings, has consolidated a powerful reputation, although later entries in the sequence may have lacked the sharpness of their predecessors.