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As a Scot I am (almost) ashamed to admit that I have never read any of Ian Rankin's crime books, and feeling decidedly humble, I feel ready to change this and am intrigued by the adoration he and his books seem to generate. There are so many to choose from and I just wonder what is the best one to start with, read, or even your favourite? That way I can choose a good one to read?

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I've read all the novels, so I'm guessing that I count as a fan... :)

 

If you're really looking to start on the series, as usual it's interesting to start with the first book, 'Knots and Crosses'. A kind of re-imagining of Jekyll & Hyde, the Rebus character is in his early stages here (he changes a bit through the years). I read this one first for a university project, followed closely by 'The Falls' (which was the latest paperback at the time), and was hooked. 'The Falls', although later, is also a good one as it is more the Rebus that we know and love, and the supporting characters are more in place.

 

Overall, I'd start with any - apart from the most recent ones (where it's helpful to know some backstory) and 'Strip Jack' (really didn't like this one). Enjoy!

 

Bex

 

(Today I will mostly be reading 'The Moneypenny Diaries' edited by Kate Westbrook)

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I've read a few Rebus from various stages of the series. The first was "Dead Souls" which has inspired me to read a few more since.

 

The last book of Rankin's I read was "Beggars' Banquet" earlier this year, one of his short story collections. He's actually not a bad short story writer so if you're looking for something to dip your toe in the water with this might not be a bad place to start. About half the stories feature Rebus.

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I've only read "Knots and Crosses". As you say, Bex, it did seem as good a place to start as any (especially as you recommended it)!!

 

I did enjoy it, and would read more Rankin - if only I had the time! I've watched a couple of Rebus TV dramatisations, and they aren't bad, but the book was much better!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have read 3 Rebus novels, starting with the first in the series "Knots and Crosses". (and a short story compilation)

 

I found it ok, but very brief. The plot was all there, in fact it was really good, but it was just all over and done with too quickly for me.

 

I guess it was just a fairly young man's first novel. He's improved a huge amount since then.

 

If, like me, you're a bit disappointed by it, don't be put off reading more of his.

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I read my first Rankin / Rebus novel on my recent holiday. Actually, I must confess, I started it on my previous holiday then left it, and then picked it up again as soon as I was back abroad. It was The Falls, which I picked out as someone had put it in their Top 10 of all time, which is not something - having now finished it - I can readily understand.

 

However, I enjoyed it, eventually, and liked John Rebus's character. At 475 pages, though, it was about 150 pages too long, in my opinion. The not especially complex plot was stretched out by Rankin, which is why it took me two attempts to finish it.

 

One of the biggest mysteries remained unsolved - how on earth could John Hannah have been cast as John Rebus? Has there ever been a greater miscasting of a detective in TV history? Miss Marple played by Christine Aguilera might run it close.

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Having put out a plea for BGO recommendations on which Rankin book to start with, I was pushed to this one, and I finished it this morning. I did enjoy it and kept quite engaged in the plot, but something was lacking. There was no real air of suspense and I wasn't emotionally charged by the crimes, something which I think is necessary for a good crime read. It all seem a little cliched to be honest - tired cop, drinks, smokes, estranged daughter, divorced, bad relations with wife. Maybe when this was written it was fairly original (which I doubt after all Chandler had been around years earlier), but it just didnt stand out to me as a great crime novel and nothing new was brought to the genre.

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I have posted similar thoughts on another thread, so in other words, I agree.

 

But it was the first in the series, he was a very young author, and his style was in its infancy. (That was my impression anyway.)

 

His books get much better as you go into the series. Jump a few books in would be my suggestion.

 

Edit: I now see that my previous observations on Knots & Crosses were on another thread started by you! You should have listened to me!! ;)

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I've taken to listening to unabridged audios (reduces driving time). A couple of months ago I listened to "Knots and Crosses" and thought it was quite good, for a book which is first in the series. It didn't inspire me to read/listen to all of the Rebus novels, so I've just jumped forward to "Black and Blue", Rankin's CWA gold dagger winner. This title is definitely meatier, edgier and more interesting - given that one of the major characters is "Bible John", the still unidentified Glaswegian murderer of the recent past.

 

It was only after this novel that Rankin's series hit the big time. Whether that was down to the Gold Dagger win or better quality writing, I have yet to discover.

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I'm an Ian Rankin fan. I have read all his books. I started with The Black Book on Audio cassette and then went and bought the "Knots & Crosses".

 

I personally felt John Hannah was not Rebus. I've always imagined Ken Stott would be perfect. But perhaps because he's already in Messiah there would be confusion.

 

The last one I read was "Fleshmarket Close" and it was one of the best of the series.

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  • 4 months later...

I quite enjoyed Knots and Crosses, but I definitely agree that Rankin's books get better the further into the series you read. I prefer Mark Billingham's character Tom Thorne to be honest, and also Alan Banks in the series by Peter Robinson.

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I've just jumped forward to "Black and Blue", Rankin's CWA gold dagger winner. This title is definitely meatier, edgier and more interesting - given that one of the major characters is "Bible John", the still unidentified Glaswegian murderer of the recent past.

I'm not a great reader of crime fiction but tried my first Rankin a year or two back, which was also Black and Blue. It was very good - excellent characters, a good mystery with plenty of disturbing edges and even though the old crime cliches were around, they were handled very skilfully and felt fresher than I might have expected. I've certainly heard that Knots and Crosses wasn't all that great so I shan't sample it, but what would people suggest is best to do - press on chronologically with the books following B&B (since there's obviously a sense of events unfolding in Rebus's life) or just skip to the best ones? In which case, which is the next best one?

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I'm a bit particular about books that are written in a series - I have to read them in the right order; I don't know why, but I think it's because there are events in Rebus' life that happen over the series, and I get annoyed if I read about something in one book and then read an earlier book in the series, and it hasn't happened yet.

 

Edited to say - I read in an interview that Black and Blue is one of Ian Rankin's own favourites in the series.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Everyone

I am new here and have been browsing and came across this thread with delight. I love Ian Rankin and I adore John Rebus. IMHO this series is one of the few that transcends the usually uniform stories we find in police procedurals. Rebus is 'everyman' in that he is both hero and flawed; he is a great detective and a drunk; he is a father and not a good one; he loves deeply and hates just as passionately; he has great compassion for the downtrodden and victims and escoriates the bad guy; he is a mentor to Shioban >sp< and also treats her badly at time; he is tenacious and lazy. But he is also a kind and generous maverick ... he knows his place in the pecking order of his precinct ... at the bottom. He doesn't give a darn because he never wanted to get into the kind of political machinations needed to move up the career ladder.

 

I have read all of the Rebus novels and at least one John Harvey (his AKA) which was not up to his usual peaks.

 

I believe that writers who create a series character will inevitably, at some time write a 'bomb'. After all they are only human. But Rankin has managed to keep them coming and getting better. His lates novel is one of the most moving work of literary crime fiction and I consider myelf a real snob in my judgments about my personal reading.

 

Other famous detectives have similar characteristics to Rebus ... Maigret, Wollander, Wexford to some extent in that they have an inner moral compass and a personal life.

 

I"d love to read more about all of your further thoughts.

GERBAM

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  • 2 months later...

I've just finished my first Rebus novel - The Naming of the Dead, and I really enoyed it. A nicely worked plot, much as I remember the original Taggart stories, where a number of apparently disparate events all tie back together in the end.

 

One of the biggest mysteries remained unsolved - how on earth could John Hannah have been cast as John Rebus?

 

I agree entirely, Bill. Now I've read Rebus for myself, I will definitely watch the Ken Stott version of him, even though I couldn't get into the John Hannah episode I tried to watch a few years back.

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I think I might have posted about this elsewhere, but whilst I don't normally go much for detective fiction a friend lent me Black and Blue and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was well written, a good plot (particularly interesting being drawn from the real life murders of Bible John) and I enjoyed Rebus as a character. I haven't got round to reading any more yet but this thread's reminded me that I should!

 

And yes, Ken Stott felt infinitely better than John Hannah. The depressing truth is surely that some exec. thought, "Hmmm, he's Scottish, so we need someone Scottish that everyone knows so that they'll watch." Ill-matched casting of 'names' really depresses me!

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I've read most of the Rebus series, and enjoyed them all. The only one that disappointed me slightly was the final one. I don't like either the John Hannah or the Ken Stott version. The miscasting of John Hannah is really annoying, but in both versions the plots are changed so much as to be unrecognizable. I do watch them, but always end up seething and shouting at the telly, "That wasn't what happened, you idiots!! Aaaargh!"

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I love the Rebus novels for the plot, writing and setting. I avoid the dramatisations for the same reasons. I'll have to wait until the paperback to read the final novel (Exit Music) but I'm sure that Siobhan will continue the crime solving for our reading pleasure. I'm never quite sure that I like her though.

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