Picking up a new Rebus book is like meeting with an old friend who you haven’t seen for a while but with whom you are instantly comfortable and in whose company you are completely certain that life is going to be anything but dull. In Even Dogs in the Wild, Ian Rankin’s 21st in the series, the Edinburgh detective has finally retired, and it’s appropriate that we first make contact with Rebus in Edinburgh’s Oxford Bar, his favourite watering hole.
His friend, and former colleague Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke (Shiv) is investigating the high-profile murder of a senior barrister, formerly Scotland’s top law officer, who was shot with a cryptic threatening note found nearby. Clarke is a bend-don’t break-the rules pragmatist who knows how to operate in the highly political Police Scotland bureaucracy.
A second novel is always a daunting prospect for a new author, particularly one who has received rave reviews for his or her debut book. The level of expectation is so extreme that reality can be, all too frequently, a disappointment. Richard Crompton set the bar very high with…
I have never thought of crime writing as suiting the short story format; I’ve always thought of it as being like a good wine requiring time to develop subtlety and depth. Turns out, that’s a load of old cobblers. Good crime writers can produce short stories that are every bit as…
Reading a novel by Donna Leon is like taking a trip to Venice, so vivid is the environment she creates on the page. By its Cover, published in Australia this week, is the 23rd in The Commissario Brunetti series but Leon’s books have always been much more than straightforward crime novels.
Brunetti is his own man but not in the confrontational, rebellious ways of Ian Rankin’s Rebus or Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole. Brunetti works within, but is not part of, the inherent corrupt system that is woven into every the fabric of the Venetians’ lives; from unpaid taxes to the broad-ranging bribery of officials; deliberate incompetence by police to the theft of evidence and the pillaging of the
Cliff Hardy is the kind of man you would like to have in your repertoire of acquaintances. He’d be the one you’d go to when an issue of moral ambiguity arose, like when the people next door keep playing their music too loud and too late and ignore polite requests to desist but you are too worried about repercussions to complain to the police. Somehow, in a way you don’t really want to know, he would persuade them to stop. Indeed, they might even nod a faux friendly hello to you should you meet in the street or when you drop off the packages which the postie keeps leaving on your doorstep because he won’t set foot on their drive ever since he had a run-in with your neighbour’s Pitbull.
Hardy, Peter Corris’s Aussie iconic private eye, has returned in his 39th book, Silent Kill which was released just after we’d stopped welcoming in 2014. It’s been a lean period for Hardy work wise and he is persuaded to sign on for what seems an easy gig. He’s to be the bodyguard for Rory O’Hara, a former crusading
For the first time I kept a list of the books I read during past year and looking back over the months, 2013 was a rich year for literary pleasure. In total I read 76 books. That averaged out at about six books a month I only managed three in June yet nine in May (that’s the luxury of holidays). Apart from reading all the books on the Booker Prize shortlist there was no particular rhyme or reason to my selections. Sometimes I would just see a book in a book shop, other times it was the book selected by my book club. Sometimes it was a review or a news item in a newspaper or magazine or because an author was appearing at a literary festival I was attending (Dublin, Hay-on-Wye in England and Byron Bay in Australia).
Despite all that, I when I read other people’s end-of-year Best Of book lists I was stunned at the number I had not even heard of let alone all those wonderful authors whose books are sitting on my bedside table or in my e-reader but which I haven’t got around to reading yet. I did live up to the promise I made myself to read more collections of short stories and was richly rewarded. I read a pathetically small number of non-fiction which I hope to remedy in 2014. There were one or two which, if it were not for the “I’ve started so I’ll finish” rule, would have immediately been relegated to the bottom of the book pile but thus is the delicious serendipity of reading.
So, before the clock ticks over to a new day and new year, here is my top ten for 2013
In the interests of full disclosure I should set on record that Detective John Rebus, the irascible Scottish cop who walks a sometimes wobbly path between the right and wrong side of the law, is one of my favourite literary characters. When author Ian Rankin decided to metaphorically bump him off because…
As seems to be the increasingcustom at this time of year I have listed below my top ten books for 2012. There is no method in the madness and they are not in any particuar order. They are simply the books which I enjoyed reading, would happily return to read them again and, perhaps most important of all, would not hesitate to recommend to my friends. The cut off date for 2012 was Christmas Day. Why is this important? Because over the past few days I have read two outstanding books. But more of them later.
Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng.
All is not as it seems in this carefully layered garden set in Malaya just before the invasion by the Japanese. Not for the characters nor the reader. It is poetic and thrilling; a story that continues to haunt you long after the final page is turned.
Bring Up The Bones by Hilary Mantel.
The sequel to the highly successful Wolf Hall, this is a lavish re-take of the ill-fated marriage between Henry VII and Anne Boleyn as seen through the fox-like eyes of Oliver Cromwell.
The Yellow Bird by Kevin Powers
Debut novel from a returned US serviceman attempting to answer the repeated question : What was it like fighting in Iraq? It has been criticised for being over-lyrical (perhaps a result of Powers’ first love, poetry) but I have returned to this book a couple of times after first reading it, and it retains its initial impact.
Rebus is back, as cynical, manipulative, unorthodox and brilliant as ever.
It is fortunate that writer Ian Rankin decided not to follow his instinct and kill off Detective John Rebus when he felt the character had run its course. Instead, in Exit Music, released in 2007, he decided to pension of what is probably one of crime fiction’s most celebrated characters
Despite lcomplaints from fans, Rankin stuck to his guns and spent the next few years writing books about the antithesis to Rebus, Malcolm Fox, who works for Edinburgh’s internal affairs unit.