Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Falls by Ian Rankin: A review

One of my reading projects for the year has been to read the Inspector Rebus series. Ian Rankin first introduced his popular detective to us back in 1987, but I came to know him long after that.

I didn't complete all the Rebus books this year, but that just gives me something to look forward to in 2011. The Falls is number 12 in the series which runs through 17 books.

Rankin was always a good writer right from the beginning, but over the years he has just gotten better and better. His John Rebus is a fully fleshed-out character, someone we know and empathize with, if not admire. His is a dark and moody soul that seems right at home in Edinburgh, as it would be perhaps nowhere else.

The starting point of the mystery in The Falls is the disappearance of a student, one Phillipa Balfour, the privileged daughter of a prominent banker. At the beginning, there are no real clues to the disappearance and the Lothian and Borders police must dig deep to try to find some scrap of information which may lead them to a resolution of the case. Rebus is not alone on the force in sensing almost immediately that the girl is dead, but where? How? And, most of all, why?

In combing records of past crimes, Rebus begins to see patterns and wonders if perhaps a serial killer is at work. His colleague and friend, Siobhan Clarke, uncovers evidence that Phillipa was playing an Internet game, run by someone called Quizmaster, at the time of her disappearance. Could those two events be related?

Siobhan signs on and contacts Quizmaster who begins sending her clues for the same game, the same scavenger hunt that may have brought Phillipa to her death. Because she is dead, as if there were ever any doubt. Her body is eventually found. She's been strangled and now it is a murder case. It's the kind of convoluted case, with red herrings smelling up the joint, at which John Rebus excels. He is an intuitive copper and amid all the misdirections, he once again manages to intuit his way to the right conclusion.

One thing I've learned in reading twelve of these Rebus books, they are addictive. You can't read just one. Finishing one leaves the reader itching to get on to the next one, and why should I deny myself?

So I plan to close out the year with Rebus and Resurrection Men, lucky number thirteen in the series.

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