Watchman

By IAN RANKIN

Ian Rankin’s early novel, “Watchman,” followed the first of his books starring Inspector John Rebus, the whiskey-tinctured, smoke-cured misanthrope of Auld Reekie. Sunny only by comparison with Rebus, Miles Flint, another Scot, is an MI5 agent who lives in the London of the mid-1980s, the heyday of IRA bombings. Shortly after we meet him, dyspeptic with midday drink and loath to go home to his jittery marriage, he botches a job and a man is assassinated. The next thing you know, Flint’s investigation into what went amiss begins to turn up inconvenient details and he is shunted off to Northern Ireland on a caper that gets fishier and fishier. Treachery is everywhere. We are in a fallen world-though one with electric suspense and a good deal of action. Rankin’s righteous pleasure in scenes of urban sordidness, institutional self-preservation, and the suave hypocrisy of life’s winners is gratifyingly evident in this youthful, fleet-footed offering. -