Well, I’ve been highly organised today and scheduled a blog-post which I wrote a few days ago on finishing the Ian Rankin book: but it has to be edited because I have news!!! Yes, if you hadn’t already gathered, we are moving!!! This is great news as we’ve been looking for a while; we have found a lovely house in Knighton and will be moving on Jan 7th. If you know us in real life and would like our new address, please comment below and I will email it to you.
And now the book review…
Every time I finish an Ian Rankin novel I feel as if I’ve been bombarded by about a dozen novels which exploded on impact, scattering plot-lines, characters, settings and images in their wake. And this is because every Ian Rankin book is not just one novel, but several: there are always at least two main plot-lines and a couple of sub-plots which weave a drunken pattern and seem unrelated until near the end when they suddenly merge and become aspects of the same story. I wonder how Rankin begins these? And where does he begin? Does he start at the end and disentangle the plot-lines as he goes along? Or does he start with four or five separate stories and weave them together?
I don’t know. I find the whole thing imponderable, because I am not a plot person. I couldn’t come up with a complex plot if my life depended on it, because my writing is character-based. Plot comes from character, from interactions between characters – and, at a pinch, from setting – in my work. But this is not to say that I can’t admire good plot-writing when I see it, and in this respect Rankin and JK Rowling are the mother and father of my narrative art, being as they are able to write the most complex and coherent plots in which the loosest of loose ends is always tied up.
But enough of this banter; for today I am going to give you a review of Rankin’s latest offering, hot off the library shelf, ‘Saints of the Shadow-Bible.’ It’s an odd title, a little clunky and perhaps a tad contrived, but all becomes clear towards the end of the first half of the book. The ‘Saints’ of the title are anything but: they are a group of semi-Masonic detectives who, enraged at what they see as miscarriages of justice due to Scotland’s ‘not proven’ verdict option, indulge a ritual where they swear on the Book of Scots Criminal Law, a sort of anti-Bible or, as Rankin puts it, ‘Shadow-Bible’.
The tag-line, ‘Saint or Sinner?’ sums Rebus up, not only in this book but in every book. Rebus is a complex and exasperating character who is so much more (and less) than the stereotypical maverick cop. Following retirement and some work on cold cases, he has rejoined the force at a lower grade (the Rebus equivalent of the Reichenbach Falls, I guess). The story begins with Malcolm Fox, a Complaints officer familiar to us from previous books, undertaking an investigation into the so-called ‘Saints’ and in particular an attack following a ‘not proven’ verdict which left two men dead and a complex cover-up operation. In the beginning it is not clear whether Rebus is helping Fox with his enquiries or ‘helping Fox with his enquiries’, if you get my drift – in other words, did he know about what happened and was he a part of it? Turns out he didn’t, and wasn’t – and by the end, he and Fox are friends; or as close to friends as Rebus ever gets. Siobhan Clarke features quite strongly in this story, albeit at some distance from her erstwhile boss, and a wide-ranging cast of supporting characters makes this almost as satisfying a read as any of the previous Rankin books.
Almost. There’s something missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.