Sunday 23 March 2014

Audio book review: Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Knots and Crosses is the very first of the D.S. Rebus novels and I chose to listen to it as an audio book. It didn'r take long - there were just three CDs and about half of the first one was taken up with Rankin talking about the character of Rebus (including the ending of the last book - thank you very much - an unwanted spoiler) and how he, Rankin, was encouraged by his editor to drastically pare down his writing- something on the less is more principle.And certainly you do get less. Very much less.

The plot is simple: two young girls have been kidnapped and murdered and a third one is now missing. Rebus is part of a team working on the case and pretty quickly he starts to receive bizarre messages consisting of string  and matchstick crosses. So, quite clearly, there is a link between Rebus and the murderer. Can Rebus work out the significance of the messages before the third girl is murdered? Not wanting to deliver a spoiler myself, I'll leave that for you to find out if you so choose.

There is also a sub-plot involving Rebus' brother, who is not as respectable as he appears. The two brothers have a strained relationship, but that's hardly surprising:- Rebus has a strained relationship with nearly everyone he knows. He has just one friend plus a sort of girlfriend, but his colleagues find him difficult and when he has sex with a woman he has only just met, he tries to throttle her in his sleep. Plus he steals bread and milk from a shop which I found weird.

In Knots and Crosses, there is less emphasis on the victims and their abductions and more on show-casing Rebus and placing him firmly within the setting of Edinburgh. This Rankin does successfully and I do admire the way in which he uses language effectively, conveying details in an almost throw-away manner. It is here that the less is more works. Where it doesn't, certainly for me, is in the lack of depth of the plot.

And then there's Rebus himself, a deeply flawed man. He's anti-social, boorish, and difficult , with no apparent endearing qualities. Many great literary detectives are flawed in one way or another: Sherlock Holmes, Jane Tennison, Inspector Morse, Detective Harry Bosch to name but a few. I'd find them fascinating dining companions. But not Rebus. I'd want to steer clear of him , and that is exactly what I'll be doing.