Sunday, June 13, 2010

A great summer read

Ian Rankin's Detective Inspector John Rebus is a non-formulaic, vivid and complex character. He actually reminds me a great deal of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse. Not that the characters are really alike, but that they are both unforgettable and unique, each in his own way, in the world of detective fiction. Each is a creative thinker. Their creative thinking sometimes leads them to wildly incorrect conclusions, but they always get to the right answer in the end, often with the help of their faithful assistants.

Strip Jack is the fourth in the Rebus series and it shows the growth of Rankin as a writer. He becomes more sure-footed in each book. In this one, the mystery involves a Member of Parliament, the Jack of the title. Gregor Jack is caught in a raid on a brothel and Rebus begins to suspect almost immediately that he has been set up. Then, the MP's wife turns up dead - murdered - and the mystery deepens.

As Rebus digs into the life of Gregor Jack and his "Pack" from school days who are still a part of his life, he finds that things are definitely not what they seem on the surface. It's a complicated plot that twists back on itself several times before Rebus finally sorts it all out, and while he's sorting it out, he's dealing with a complicated plot in his own life. His relationship with Patience, the doctor with whom he either is or isn't living (he can't seem to decide), is taking a beating because of his obsession with his work. Her patience (pardon the pun) with that obsession is about to run out. Meantime, he continues to have stray thoughts about Inspector Gill Templor.

Rebus is an enormously attractive character and these stories are modern and timely and deal with issues right out of the daily newspapers. Music is also a big part of his life and, in each of the stories, Rebus' love of music is woven into the plot. These plots are intricate and are to be savored and not quickly forgotten. They are unlike your usual mystery plot and they are great and diverting summer reads. Or, in fact, great reads for any time of the year

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