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Knots and Crosses (1987)

by Ian Rankin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Inspector Rebus (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,0431103,067 (3.55)261
The very first Rebus novel from the No.1 bestselling author. 'And in Edinburgh of all places. I mean, you never think of that sort of thing happening in Edinburgh, do you...'' 'That sort of thing' is the brutal abduction and murder of two young girls. And now a third is missing, presumably gone to the same sad end. Detective Sergeant John Rebus, smoking and drinking too much, his own young daughter spirited away south by his disenchanted wife, is one of many policemen hunting the killer. And then the messages begin to arrive: knotted string and matchstick crosses - taunting Rebus with pieces of a puzzle only he can solve.… (more)

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» See also 261 mentions

English (102)  Dutch (4)  German (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (110)
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
Slow on the uptake
cranks letters, shifty brother
surviving on cigs. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Somehow I've never got around to reading the Rebus books. partly as I owned a couple but wasn't sure which was the first. So I checked and, on my very next charity shop crawl, found Knots and Crosses in the second shop for a quid. Result.

It's a recent edition so has a forword from the author explaining the times in which the book was written (no mobile phones, etc) and also excusing his youthful shortcomings. While there are issues with the novel, none of the things Rankin's more experienced critical eye were, for me, amkng them.

This is, at base, a fairly formulaic police detective novel - copper with a troubled past, drink problem, broken marriage and child maturing rapidly becomes embroiled in a murder case that takes on an unforeseeon personal aspect. But. The writing is very good indeed, especially the sense of place and characterisation via action and inner monologue. Okay, at this stage he's not the equal of Val McDermid or Chris Brookmyre, but neither were they so early in their careers. The psychological depth really doez set him apart from the mass ofcrkme writing (excepting the previously mentioned authors and a tiny handful of others). I would say that two areas that let him down are a certain naivity to the plotting (he states in the jntro that he wasn't interested in reading crime fiction) and the dialogue. While the inner thoughts of the characters are distinct, when it comes to their speech it is all but impossible to tell one from another.

All n all, this is a tightly written and gripping novel that makes me eager to raed the next. Hell, it's the first book I've read in24 hours in some time and, even taking into account I was travelling, that speaks volumes.

(please excuse the typos; this review written on my tablet screen) ( )
  Pezski | Jun 21, 2020 |
"Knots and Crosses" ended up on my TBR pile because I saw Ian Rankin being interviewed about the release of "Even Dogs In The Wild", the twentieth Rebus book. He sounded like an interesting guy, I'd enjoyed seeing John Hannah in the TV version of Rebus back in 2000, so I thought I'd go back to the start of it all and read the first Rebus book.

I think I now know why the TV version started with "Black and Blue", book eight in the series. Book one was written a long, long time ago and it feels like it's set in a universe far far away from here.

I came to the book expecting a Scottish Police Procedural with Rebus as the gifted but rebellious cop with a past.

What I got was quite different. In this book, Rebus is not a particularly gifted cop, he's more a slightly surly under-achiever who has issues with people in authority. He does have a past, although we're asked to believe that he's suppressed the memory of it so thoroughly that it surfaces only in dreams and as occasional bouts mental fragility. In fact, he's so unstable, some of his colleagues entertain the idea that he might be the serial killer in the story and not even know it himself.

It turns out that, back in 1987, when Ian Rankin wrote "Knots And Crosses", he had intended it as a modern day retelling of Stephenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, rather than as a crime book. I can almost see Rebus as Jekyll and Hyde. Sadly, the source of his split-personality is almost as incredible as the origins of Mr Hyde: SAS training breaks Rebus' mind and he pays the price fourteen years later. It's a bit of a stretch for a normal crime book.

Parts of the book are compelling, especial the SAS part of the story, and James MacPherson's narration did a lot to improve my enjoyment of the book, but overall, I was disappointed. The premise stretched my belief to the limit. The ending is abrupt and a little anti-climatic. The puzzle is a little too "clever, clever" and the evocation of Edinburgh is a little thin.

I haven't written Rebus off yet but I think I'll skip the early years and move on to "Black and Blue". ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
A Scots dialect dictionary would have been handy for this one, but still enjoyed it. ( )
  trinker | Jan 9, 2020 |
I kept thinking I would put it down but then it would get interesting again. The end was great. ( )
  AnnaHernandez | Oct 17, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
Note from Kirkus' Vintage Review Editor:
In 1987 author Ian Rankin introduced Edinburgh, Scotland police detective John Rebus in his first novel, Knots and Crosses. Kirkus awarded the novel a starred review and encouraged our readers to carefully watch this newcomer. For the following 20 years, Rankin treated his loyal readers to a Rebus mystery every year or two until he retired him in 2006 in the excellent novel, Exit Music. As Rankin is bringing Rebus back in his new novel Standing in Another Man’s Grave, we remind you what we thought about Rankin’s first go-round with Rebus. — January 21, 2013

A compelling first novel sent in Edinburgh, where a series of killings of young girls has the city in a panic. Ex-army police detective John Rebus is in the thick of the investigation. Scarred by his elite-corps army training, a nervous breakdown and a divorce, father of teen-age Samantha, Rebus is a dogged but not too sharp investigator. The anonymous letters he starts to receive after the first murder are shrugged off as the work of a crank; he never questions the affluence of his rarely seen hypnotist brother Michael; and he never figures out the one factor common to all the victims. In the meantime, his girlfriend Gill Templet, a press liason policewoman, and hard-bitten, hard-drinking reporter Jim Stevens are smarter. It slowly becomes clear that the killer's focus is Rebus himself, who must finally confront an implacable enemy and hie own long-repressed traumatic memories. Solidly drawn characters, keen psychological insights and an intriguing, well-knit plot--along with a rather florid but individual writing style--make Rankin a newcomer to watch.
added by VivienneR | editKirkus Reviews

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Rankinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rodchester, AmyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rusconi, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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