For his 13th Det. Insp. John Rebus volume, Ian Rankin (The Falls) has traded the full-length police procedural for a collection of 12 gripping stories. The king of tartan noir puts his popular Scottish "heart attack material" supersleuth to work investigating arson, a ghostly vision, a converted ex-con and the "perfect murder" in A Good Hanging's fast-paced mini-mysteries. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Although Edgar Allen Poe proved that it was possible to craft a satisfying short mystery, there is always something disatisfying about that form: under its limitations, the plot contrivances are more obvious and the character development skimpier. First published in England in 1992, this collection of 12 tales reflects those flaws, but it also features Detective Inspector John Rebus, Rankin's police hero, and his fascinating city of Edinburgh. From the hanging of a young actor to a confessed murderer's declaration of innocence, the enigmatic and secretive Rebus solves these cases, much to the chagrin of his inferiors (and superiors): "How was he [Holmes] expected to shine, to be noticed, to push forward to promotion, when it was always Rebus who, two steps ahead, came up with the answers?" These stories are slight but enjoyable. Budgets allowing, purchase for your Rankin fans; otherwise, stick to Rankin's more complex and compelling novels like The Falls. Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Nothing more than 12 character studies, perhaps-but the character they're studying is probably the most interesting man in detective fiction, the quintessential thinking man, Edinburgh DI John Rebus. It's fascinating to watch him ratiocinate his way through a schoolgirl's enforced suicide ("The Gentlemen's Club"), his old nemesis "Trigger" Crawford's revenge on a drug dealer ("Auld Lang Syne"), a peeper's comeuppance ("Tit for Tat"), an alibi that breaks down, rises again, then crumbles ("Not Provan"), a Hammett cliche ("The Dean Curse"), and a hanging that turns out to be manual strangulation (the title story). Rebus, per usual, groans at pathologist Dr. Curt's puns-most noticeably in "Seeing Things"-reconstructs and then deconstructs a murder scenario in "Concrete Evidence," believes a murderer when he recants a confession in "Playback," and sorts through fantasy and fact as they wend their way through Frank the tramp's brain in "Being Frank." And while "Monstrous Trumpet" finds Rankin in a playful mood and Rebus confronting his Francophobia and a passel of man-baiters, it is the brief "Sunday" and Rebus's reaction to murdering a thug that most worries his perpetual underling, Constable Brian Holmes-and sticks with the reader the longest afterward.