Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin

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Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The 16th in the Inspector Rebus series moves into new territory as Rankin tackles the problems of illegal immigrants and asylum seakers in Edinburgh. It's an excellent plot with plenty of other sub-plots in the background and a satisfying finale. It's worth buying as it's a novel that could easily be reread.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: August 2005
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 0752865633

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I don't often buy fiction in hardback: it's expensive and only the very best is reread. I do make an exception for the Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin though, as quite a few family and friends will read the book. Actually, that's just my rationalisation - I can't wait for the paperback edition to find out what's happening in the Rebus world.

The body of an illegal immigrant is found in Knoxland, one of Edinburgh's most notorious housing schemes. There's a host of questions to be answered, ranging from the basic "who is he?" through to the more complex reasons for the murder. Rebus has other things on his mind too. His old police station has closed down and the powers-that-be are making it clear that they would prefer him to retire, but Rebus doesn't really have a life to retire to. Asked what he'd do he says that he'd get liver disease - he's already made the down payment.

Rebus' protégé, Siobhan Clarke, is looking into the disappearance of a teenage girl, whose sister committed suicide after being raped. Coincidentally, the rapist has just been released from prison. She's also got the problem of two skeletons found under the cement floor of a pub in Fleshmarket Close, which seem to be part of an elaborate hoax, but to what end?

Few people can claim to have only the blood of their homeland flowing in their veins. Most have immigrants further up the family tree. Rebus has a Polish grandfather and this makes him more sympathetic to the plight of the residents of an asylum-seekers' detention centre. I have sympathy for asylum seekers, whatever their reason for leaving their home country, and I found the descriptions of the lives of the immigrants moving. The facts have been carefully researched and the bleak impossibility of it all is well presented. You're not bludgeoned with the facts but quite the reverse. Immigration isn't one of my "causes", but I found myself reading from the websites which Rankin recommends for further information.

Asylum is obviously very much a current issue. Tied in with this is the standard of housing on some of the sink estates on the fringes of prosperous cities. Knoxland doesn't exist, but I could imagine the reality of living where "you could hear the neighbours cutting their toenails and smell their dinner on the stove". It's easy to see how racism gets a foothold, easier still to see the depths to which people are forced to sink just to make a living. One of the ways is the sex industry. The descriptions are evocative, but not explicit.

I've always been in awe of Rankin's ear for dialect. He never falls into the trap of producing dialect as pantomime as so many writers do, but you'd know where the story's set even without the descriptions of Edinburgh. Rankin lives in the city and travels on public transport. He knows it like the back of his hand and loves it: that comes through in the book.

Organised crime features in a number of the Rebus novels and there is an element of it in this novel. It isn't a storyline which greatly appeals to me, but it's not overworked in the book.

This is a cracking story. I read the 400 or so pages in a day and a half when I really should have been doing something else. There are a number of complex plot lines which interact well and the resolution didn't seem in the least contrived. The ending is particularly satisfying: I didn't see it coming despite the fact that all the clues were there. It's utterly readable too. You don't have to work at it - my problem was putting it down!

This is the sixteenth book in the Rebus series and I find it remarkable that they are as fresh as ever. There are still fresh insights into the personalities of the characters who appear throughout the series. With each new book they develop and grow, although it's always the plots which dominate the novels rather than the characters. You don't need to have read the preceding books to enjoy Fleshmarket Close, but you will get more from it if you've read at least some of the earlier novels. The first novel in the series is "Knots and Crosses" which is available either on its own or as part of "Rebus, the early years".

So, will it be your sort of book? If you're a fan of the 'posh detectives' of P D James and Elizabeth George novels then I'm afraid that you might find the Rebus novels a little too gritty. If you like the blood and gore of Patricia Cornwell then you might find Rankin a little tame. I'm a big fan of Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen novels and there are many similarities, although I would say that Rankin's writing is the more consistent. If you like a good detective story then I doubt that any of the Rebus novels will disappoint you.

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Buy Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin at Amazon.com.

Booklists.jpg Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin is in the Top Ten Crime Novels.


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