Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Knots & Crosses: Ian Rankin, January 16—25, 2013
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Rebus has humble beginnings, both as a character and as a series. Knots & Crosses is a relatively straightforward serial killer case that boasts fantastic setting but vague plotting.
John Rebus is a perfectly flawed character, with enough humility and likeability to endear his miserable, pessimistic outlook to the audience. Indeed, the limited omnipotence of the narration – framed within Rebus’s mind almost always – adds a layer of intensity and depth to the character who is well developed and one hundred per cent believable. Rebus is easily one of the most realistic literary detectives of recent times and commands respect, derision, understanding and sympathy from an audience who just want him to succeed.
The supporting characters don’t have much to do, but the likes of sleazy reporter Jim Stevens, no nonsense Gill Templer and loveable rogue Jack Morton have the potential to develop into excellent co-stars. As it stands, they serve their purpose well enough, to add meat to Rebus’s bones and function as and when the plot requires them to.
Much has been made by Rankin himself of the fact Rebus was supposed to die at the end of the book, and that – given there was to be no series – the possibility of Rebus being the perpetrator would have been much more credible at the time of its initial release. However, as a detective novel it lacked much in the way of actual detection with precious little in the way of leads, suspects, motives or clues. Although the monotony of Rebus and Morton’s trawls through the annals of history in completing the paperwork and day-to-day murder investigation is in fact one of the novel’s greatest charms and USPs, it is also a crippling weakness that results in the plot moving very slowly and in no particular direction. The investigation is a backdrop to explore Rebus more, and there was space and time to develop it further.
Rebus’s hypnotised flashback to his SAS days is a great sequence, and Rankin switches from third to first person in an inspired move. It works well, introduces the series’ protagonist brilliantly and sets the scene for the finale.
Although slightly immature, Rankin’s first attempt is a good one and it’s hardly any wonder Rebus came back for a new case time and time again.