Every now and then I like to interrupt my usual literary druthers with a nice mindless mystery/thriller. I find I have been discontent with the books I have been reading lately and needed something light and good to recharge. So I drafted Ian Rankin novelist-distractionaire for this task, and Rankin’s Fleshmarket Close did just that.
Carrying on his Detective Rebus series, Rankin begins his story with a man found stabbed in a dodgy area of Edinburgh. The victim, a refugee with several stab wounds, is thought by the police to be the result of a racially-motivated crime. And so tells the murder-solving story that weaves several different crimes that all take place over a week.
Rankin is a great storyteller and bravely takes on the touchy subject of race relations. He exposes the harsh realities faced by refugees and asylum-seekers, and depicts their attempts to start new lives in a better country only to find themselves poor, desolate, and the subject of hate crimes.
Rankin’s readers know that sometimes his stories wrap everything up together all too nicely, but that’s easy to get over considering you’ve devoured page after page because he’s kept you entertained. The great thing about Rankin’s novels is they don’t subject the reader to procedural dribble; rather he makes his novels interesting, funny, and with a healthy dose of police work that makes you hang on for more.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A THINKING MAN'S THRILLER - VERY WELL READFeb. 11 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio Cassette
Inspector John Rebus, created by Edgar-Award winning author Ian Rankin, has won a legion of followers who cannot wait for the next Scotland based mystery involving the hardened, perspicacious detective. He's known for a bit of sardonic wit and a sleeve full of surprises.
Michael Page reads this, the 15th Rebus novel, with thorough understanding of the pivotal character, and segues nicely into the voice of his colleague Siobhan Clarke.
One would think that after years of covering city streets infested with crime and scoundrels there would be little to cause the flicker of an eyelash from Rebus. Not so. The murder of a refugee in a seedy building precedes a scenario more frightening than the battle scarred detective could ever have imagined. That building is only one in an area that holds more than dens of prostitution but has become a hub for the slave trade, which the government often chooses to ignore. Those seeking sanctuary are sold to the highest bidder for cheap labor.
While Rebus is confronted with a tangled web of killings, listeners are confronted with a reminder of man's inhumanity to man.
As often is the case, Rankin and Rebus present a thinking man's thriller ably read by Michael Page.
- Gail Cooke
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A look at the seamier side of Scotland.March 19 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
In "Fleshmarket Alley," by Ian Rankin, Detective Inspector John Rebus and Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke join forces to find the killer of a recent immigrant, the whereabouts of a missing young woman, and the origin of two skeletons found under a cement floor. Does Scotland bring to mind kilts, bagpipes, and bonnie lassies? Well, think again. According to Rankin, Glasgow is one of the murder capitals of the world. "Fleshmarket Alley" is filled with gangsters, racists, sexual predators, and more than a few common criminals.
John Rebus is close to being put out to pasture. Since his bosses have no use for him, he finds himself in Knoxland, a run-down, fetid, and crime-ridden housing development in Edinburgh. Knoxland has become a dumping ground for desperate refugees seeking asylum in Scotland; it is now a crime scene where an unidentified man was brutally stabbed to death. Meanwhile, a desperate couple has enlisted Siobhan to find their eighteen-year-old daughter, Ishbel, who packed a bag a week earlier and disappeared without a word.
Rebus is an inspector of the old school. He has a wide range of contacts, both legitimate and shady, whom he calls upon for inside information. It is amazing that Rebus can take a breath or stand up, since he seems to smoke and drink constantly. However, he is as sharp as ever, and what he lacks in youth, he makes up for in instinct, experience, and dogged persistence.
"Fleshmarket Alley" is a frank and disturbing look at the seamier side of Scotland. Rankin's characters range from racists who want all immigrants to go back "where they came from" to greedy opportunists who enrich themselves at the refugees' expense. As Rebus and Clarke work on their cases, they interview potential eyewitnesses as well as wealthy flesh peddlers and street thugs. However, the two detectives both find that their investigations are too complex to yield quick and simple solutions.
Rankin's dialogue in this novel is hard-edged and laced with dark humor; his plotting is intricate and involving. He skillfully and compassionately explores the problems of immigrants who seek refuge in a country where they are unwanted. As always, Rankin writes credibly about the politics, tedium, and often frustrating futility of police work. Rebus makes for a terrific anti-hero, and Siobhan Clarke is an excellent foil for him. "Fleshmarket Alley" is uncompromising and sometimes unpleasant to read, but it paints a realistic picture of the criminal activity that accompanies the troubling social problems plaguing Scotland today.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
What a Find in Ian Rankin!Feb. 14 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the first time I've read anything by Ian Rankin, and based on this book I'd rate him right up there with my three other favorite British mystery writers: P.D. James, Elizabeth George, and, of course, Agatha Christie.
And I needed a new mystery writer! Agatha hasn't written anything for quite some time (could be because she's dead), P.D. James hasn't had anything new (is she still writing?), and Elizabeth George is still working but I just couldn't wait any longer for her next book.
So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I was given an advanced reading copy of Fleshmarket Alley to review.
Why do I find British mystery writers so much better than their American counterparts? I know that a lot of people will take umbrage with this comment, but I always enjoy the British authors' writing styles compared to those in the States (if you agree with this sentiment, I have no doubt you'll enjoy this novel).
I found the story's complexity, depth, and length (a comfortable 420 pages) a very satisfying read. I don't know much about detective Rebus, but this book makes me want to read all of Mr. Rankin's earlier novels based on this character (starting with Knots and Crosses). This is my favorite type of murder mystery; it's not important who did the dastardly deed, it's the road to discovery as to why the murder(s) took place that make it a rich reading experience.
I also found this novel especially intriguing because of the political and sociological atmosphere (in Scotland) that surrounds the action and investigation-which gives you a lot to ponder, besides just the murders. I learned a great deal about the Scottish immigration and refugee problem, which made me more aware of issues outside of my own little world; it left me thinking about the book long after I'd finished reading. Isn't that what reading is all about?
I hope his other books are as satisfying as this one-I plan to read more about detective Rebus. My only complaint is that I wish they'd included a glossary of British/Scottish slang terms. I was a little lost when phrases like "no cheap plonk" and others suddenly appeared. I was able to figure it out in context, but for the average American reader, I'm sure a glossary would be much appreciated. Even so, it added to the flavor of this author's British roots and his style of writing.
Getting back to my earlier comment about British mystery writers over American mystery writers, the British authors don't seem to dumb-down their writing to appeal to the masses, while their American counterparts (you know . . . those "A", "B", "C", etc. murder mysteries) tend to be formulaic and repetitious after the third or fourth (or tenth!) book.
If you want a satisfying read and you've run out of British authors (like I have), try discovering Ian Rankin. You won't be disappointed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fleshmarket Close--Fleshmarket Alley in USFeb. 25 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
I have been reading Ian Rankin's books since his first Rebus book was published.However, I visit Edinburgh every year and purchase his books there. "Fleshmarket Alley" is "Fleshmarket Close" in the books published in the UK and somehow the US versions lose something (at least to me). It is great to be able to relate to the places that are mentioned in the books.Edinburgh is a beautiful city and Rankin brings both the good and the not so good to life. I was lucky enough to purchase Fleshmarket Close when it hit Waterstone's books in Edinburgh. It is another great Rebus saga and Ian Rankin's fans in the US won't be disappointed---even though some words have been changed for the US.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Rebus ReduxNov. 30 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Ian Rankin isn't the bestselling mystery writer in the UK for nothing. His main man (alter ego?) Inspector John Rebus is a living, breathing anachronism in a jaded world and it is a pleasure to travel in his orbit, even if it means being drunk an awful lot of the time, or so it seems. Rebus is one of those people who has apparently reached an equilibrium with his booze and has achieved a certain ability to operate where most of us would be on our faces. This book could drive you to join Rebus with its unstinting look at the treatment of immigrants and refugees in Scotland and elsewhere in the world and the vulnerability at the hands of a system where they are easily prey to fleshmongers and slave traders. It isn't a pretty picture and it isn't a pretty book, but the story is clean and solid and the story is one that absolutely needs to be told.
The murder that starts this book is almost incidental to the journey of discover that it causes for Rebus and his compatriots. There is a subordinate story that may or may not hook into the primary murder involving the search for a missing girl. It is a heartbreaking development following the suicide of her sister, who was raped and never mentally recovered from the ordeal. The rapist is now out of prison and we don't know what to make of this information. Did he nab her as well? When he turns up dead, she moves from potential hostage to potential murderer...but nobody can find her.
This is more quickly paced than most Rebus books and with denser plotting. You don't need to know Scotland to read this effectively, but it is a good idea to keep track of the story locations in your mind. It might tend to get a little confusing, and "place" means everything to the effectiveness of this story. As if that weren't enough, there is also a very unusual potential romance for Rebus in this book that will have you scratching your head right along with him!