Book Review – Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Book Review

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Orion Books

7 out of 10

Knots and Crosses is the book that introduced Inspector John Rebus to the world. His world weary cynicism, and unhealthy habits forming, but still not fully developed, but right away we are introduced to Rebus’s environment of Edinburgh, its crimes, criminals, and a way of interfering in his personal life.

Two young girls have been kidnapped, murdered, and a third is missing, perhaps heading towards the same fate. Rebus’s personal life has collapsed, his marriage is over, and his daughter is down south, with her mother, and then it starts to get more and more personal.

The post arrives, knotted strings and matchstick crosses, and no indication of where they came from. Rebus delves into his own past in the army to for the answers, and doesn’t like what he finds there. As he gets closer and closer to the truth, rubbing the powerful of Edinburgh the wrong way with his blunt charm, we learn more about Rebus’s, and how his time in the army affected him, and the identity of the murderer comes as a complete shock to both Rebus, and the reader.

Knots and Crosses is where it all started for Rebus, and although originally it was only meant to be a one of, Ian Ranking soon discovered that there was a lot more to Rebus than he thought. It has the same characters we all know, but in a less formed state, this is an embryonic Rebus, but all fans of crime fiction, and Scottish fiction will find something to love within these pages.

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Francis Bacon’s Head

francis-bacons-headThe Great Artist,

rendered expensively in Gold.

Maybe the mould was broken,

Or maybe the artist was going through

his Picasso stage,

where faces don’t look like faces,

and if he tells us that it is Francis Bacon’s head

rendered in enough gold to run a hospital

or a school for a year,

then we believe him.


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Book Review – A Monstrous Commotion – The Mysteries of Loch Ness by Gareth Williams

Book Review – A Monstrous Commotion – The Mysteries of Loch Ness by Gareth Williams

Nessie has had a long and storied life. Whether or not it simply is a tourist attraction, a sea monster that does not take a good picture, there is plenty to think about in this book. Gareth Williams is your guide, and  his intelligent and considered writing style lets people, and examines all of the evidence in a nearly forensic fashion. As could be expected, there are plenty of foot-notes and other sources of evidence that are all examined. Using modern technology, he debunks some of the most well known pictures, but some of the pictures defy explanation. Sometimes they are obviously faked, but used the best technology at the time to create pictures. If you are believer in the Loch Ness Monster, or just have a fleeting interest in the subject, this well-researched factual book could well be the book to make you think differently about the Loch Ness Monster.

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Book Review – Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin

Book Review – Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin

Even Dogs in the Wild finds Ian Rankin’s most famous creation, Detective InspectorJohn Rebus doing what he does best, clashing with colleagues and criminals, drinking too much, and coming up against the darkest nature of human existence.

He is now officially retired, but is keeping his hand in, helping colleague Siobahn Clarke and Malcolm Fox, but even there, there are changes, with cut-backs seriously reducing the amount of money that the force has to spend, and Fox, already feeling doubts about his position has to travel from Edinburgh to Dundee to cover shifts, and when an upstanding lawyer is found dead, with a threatening note, it is all he needs, so he calls in Rebus to lend his expertise.

Around the outskirts of his life, Rebus is changing. Once a policeman, always a policeman, it gets in the blood, give officers a sense of belonging, of going the extra mile. But as the investigation into the Judges’s death continues, it appears that he was the victim of a criminal turf war, and when Ger Cafferty, once one of Rebus’s sworn enemies returns to his life, they are no longer on opposite side of the law. There is a deep respect between both man, each recognising something of themselves in the other.

This is a fine addition to Rebus’s ever evolving story, and shows how, now as an older man, he is no longer fit for active duty, but still has a lot to offer to his former paymasters.

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Book review – School of Velocity by Eric Beck Rubin

School of Velocity is a novel about music, about self-doubt, about mental health, and about friendship. Jan is a virtuoso pianist, always practising, the book starts with him accompanying a cellist in a foreign country, but the concert doesn’t go as planned. He can barely remember the music, misses a few cues, and leaves in disgrace.

As he comes to terms with this disaster, and the implications that it may have on his future career, he remembers Dirk, and old school friend, with a magnetic personality, and popularity to burn, and as Dirk’s personality and popularity rubs of on Jan, he finds his life changed by being allowed into certain circles within the school clique system. But the friendship is dangerous, and toxic with Dirk daring Jan to take on more and more dangerous risks, and after they leave school, the friendship falters.

They meet up again in later life, but things have changed between them. Jan is the successful one, making good on the promise he showed in his youth, but they are both also aware that their friendship was a normal friendship. It was more than that, bordering on love, or on obsession, and as Jan takes one last risk to try to impress Dirk, we know that neither of them will find the full resolution that they need.

This is a fine novel, from a debut novelist, with plenty to say. The friendship between the two protagonists is well drawn, and while neither of them is particularly sympathetic, it is a believable relationship, and the story moves along at quite a smart pace, whilst secondary characters are well drawn, including the girls that Jan repeatedly loses to Dirk, or their family members. Eric Beck Rubin has also done his research into the piano repertoire, and describing the life of musicians in the highest standards of the classical music world.

Ben Macnair

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Book Review – Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo is best known as the creator of Detective Harry Hole in a number of his novels, but the central character in Blood on Snow couldn’t be any further removed from Nesbo’s most famous creation. Olav is a fixer. He fixes people. Terminally. So he is an assassin for hire, down on his luck, removing the tiny obstacles from people’s lives. He has a code that he lives by, but it becomes increasingly complicated, when he falls for his boss’s wife, and his next job is to kill her.  As he tries to protect her, whilst going about his usual business, he realises that there is no easy way out of his dilemma, and if he doesn’t kill her himself, his own life will be put at risk, particularly if his boss finds about the relationship that is swiftly developing between the two. As we have come to expect from Nesbo, the book starts with a bang, and continues, through many action set-pieces, as Olav fixes a number of people throughout the book. We learn about his favourite ways of assassination, of his relationship with his family, of the life choices he made that led to his current occupation. This is an action packed read, with characterisation, and crime pushed to the forefront.

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Book Review – The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

The Cellist of Sarajevo is partly based on fact,everyday the cellist goes into the streets of sarojevo, and plays albinoni’s Adagio, to remind the people of Sarajevo that even though they are in danger, there is still some beauty in the world, he plays it for 22 days, at the same time, and at the same place to remember the 22 people who lost their lives.

The story has three main characters, who each relate to the story. There is Arrow, a talented shot, who is recruited to keep the snipers away. Her problems with being a hired killer add a lot to the story, then there is Kenan, who has to cross the city to get water everyday, and has to risk the snipers, and sudden death, and finally there is Dragan, who does not who out of his friends he can trust.

Arrow has to keep the Cellist alive, so she protects him from the snipers, but without him knowing about her, whilst the challenges of every day life are vividly drawn. Crossing the road is a constant danger for pedestrians, as the snipers wait for them to cross, whilst the country is in a state of turmoil, the Cellist continues to play, constantly kept alive by Arrow, but the book does not stay away from the realities of live either, and the ending of the novel is particularly moving.

Although the book is based on fact, a lot of liberties have also been taken, to add to the story of the Cellist (who escaped from Sarajevo,eventually, ending up in Dublin). The book is very well written, it is immediate, and touching, and shows the strength of the human spirit when faced with the adversity that wars bring.

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