Saturday, May 22, 2010

A new love

I've been going to bed with Ian Rankin this week and it has been great fun!

Most readers of mysteries probably are familiar with Rankin and with his detective Inspector Rebus of Edinburgh, but I've only just made his acquaintance, although I've known about him for years, of course. There are around twenty books in the Rebus series. I've finished one and two, Knots and Crosses and Hide and Seek. Now I'm reading number three, Tooth and Nail. These books are fast reads and are very hard to put down once you get into the story.

Rebus is an interesting and flawed character. The reader can easily empathize with his weaknesses and cheer him on as he stumbles along trying to solve the latest murder mystery. Part of his attractiveness, I think, comes from his surroundings. Edinburgh is full of history and quirkiness, and Rankin has a way of painting a picture of the city with very spare language. There are no flowery passages. No word is wasted, but one feels the atmosphere of the place, just as one gets the gist of the personality of Rebus.

Edinburgh is the setting of another series that I was reading earlier this year, the Isabel Dalhousie stories by Alexander McCall Smith. Now Smith is a very different kind of writer. You won't find any serial killers in his books, but in the Dalhousie books, too, Edinburgh is almost a character in itself. The action is firmly set in that place and couldn't really happen anywhere else.

So it is with Rebus. Edinburgh is part of him, even if he travels to London or to other places; you can take the detective out of Edinburgh but you can't take Edinburgh out of the detective.

It's always exciting to meet a new character in fiction with which one can feel a connection, and it is always exciting to meet another writer who can give you that connection and that thrill.

And now, if you'll excuse me, Rankin is waiting for me next to my bed.

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