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Watchman by Ian Rankin

Watchman (1988)

by Ian Rankin

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English (16)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Ian Rankin wrote this book just after his first Rebus book was published. However this book is a stand-alone spy novel which was first published in 1988. This copy is the paperback reissued in 2004. I had been looking for a copy for quite a while and nabbed it when I saw it for sale at the Friends of the Library book sale.

Miles Flint is a spy with "the firm" which I believe refers to MI5. He is part of the Watchmen section so he never does anything like James Bond; he mostly just sits and watches. He and a few others have been watching an Arab who is suspected of being a contract killer but the Arab gives them the slip and later that night an Israeli attache is killed. Flint thinks someone in the firm tipped off the Arab and that means that someone is a double agent. So he starts making some discrete enquiries but maybe he wasn't as discrete as he thought because people he consulted disappear from the firm. London is in the throes of an IRA bombing campaign. Soon Flint and others are watching a house with four Irish citizens who may be involved. At the same time Flint has discovered that his wife and a friend also in the firm have been meeting in secret. Flint moves out and into the house where they are conducting their watching activities. And then the operation is shut down because it doesn't seem to be producing any results. Before Flint can even find a new place to live he is sent to Belfast to witness an arrest of a couple of the people believed to be making the bombs. There, in the Emerald Isle, things really go to hell.

This was a gripping read and if I didn't love the Rebus books so much maybe I would wish that Rankin would write more spy novels. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 27, 2018 |
A very early Ian Rankin and, while a decent enough spy novel, only a 2-star effort as Rankins go. ( )
  Siubhan | Feb 28, 2018 |
Warning: This review contains spoilers.


Ian Rankin's early spy novel features as its protagonist Miles Flint, a "watcher" with MI5. His job: surveillance. His goal: not to screw up. Unfortunately, he loses a target, with disastrous results. Meanwhile, bombs are going off in the heart of London, and MI5 are trying to find the perpetrators. Along the way another surveillance job is botched, heads are demanded, and Miles eventually finds himself in Belfast, spurred to action in the most dramatic manner possible. Will he get out of this situation alive?

Since this is an Ian Rankin novel, I did enjoy it, although you can tell he's still working on a voice. The constant comparing of colleagues to different types of beetles was an interesting thematic device, but it jarred a bit. However, the descriptions of places were excellent as always (especially the showdown at Waverley Station -- I could picture that one very clearly). I do think the plot summary on the back does the book something of a disservice -- it says that Miles becomes "too involved" with one of the suspects, but from what I recall he doesn't actually get to DO anything with her. He just reveals his presence to her at an inopportune moment, spoiling the surveillance operation. Granted, he does reveal his presence because he is intrigued by her, but that is hardly "too involved" (which sounds like they're having a full-out affair).

The edition I read also contained an introduction by Rankin, where he explained the events surrounding the writing of the novel and what inspired it. This in turn has led me to look for books about 20th-century Ireland, since a lot of my more recent history knowledge is rather spotty. So all in all this was a good book and I'd recommend checking it out if you're a Rankin fan. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 19, 2017 |
This was an interesting early book written by Ian Rankin that he was planning during his honeymoon! At first moving along quite gently and you are trying to work out who is behind things and why, but when it moves to Northern Ireland and Ireland it really takes off, grabs you by the threat and doesn't let you go until the end. Also one or two good links in the book to the Rebus series. Very glad I read it, and I think he would write some more espionage books. ( )
  Andrew-theQM | Feb 22, 2017 |
This spy novel is a bit of a departure for Rankin as he introduces us to Miles Flint. Set during the IRA terrorist bombings in London, we follow a complex plot where the issues are not what they seem. Typically spy novels have convoluted plots, difficult to follow as each character hides his true motive. Whereas Rankin does play on this classical line, the story is not so obfuscated that it's impossible to follow - just enough to keep the reader interested and motivated to find out more.
A nice little read ( )
  Cecilturtle | Oct 16, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0752859153, Paperback)

Bombs are exploding in the streets of London, but life seems to have planted more subtle booby-traps for Miles Flint. Miles is a spy. His job is to watch and to listen, then to report back to his superiors, nothing more. The job, affording glimpses into the most private lives of his victims, appeals to Miles. He doesn't lust after promotion, and he doesn't want action. He wants, just for once, not to botch a case. Having lost one suspect - with horrific consequences - Miles becomes too involved with another, a young Irishwoman. His marriage seems ready to crumble to dust. So does his home. But Miles is given one last chance for redemption - a trip to Belfast, which quickly becomes a flight of terror, murder and shocking discoveries. But can the voyeur survive in a world of violent action?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Miles is a spy. He wants, just for once, not to botch a case. Given one last chance for redemption, he is sent to Belfast, which quickly becomes a fight of terror, murder and shocking discoveries. But can he survive in a world of violent action?

» see all 3 descriptions

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