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The Black Book (1993)

by Ian Rankin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Inspector Rebus (5)

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1,778319,042 (3.77)83
Inspector Rebus of the Edinburgh police has a busy time. A deported child molester is back in town, a stabbing victim refuses to say who attacked him, and last but not least the gun he bought turns out to be a murder weapon.

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English (26)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
When DC Brian Holmes is attacked in a cafe parking lot and hospitalized in a coma, DI John Rebus is obsessed with the need to find out what happened; despite being assigned to a long-term surveillance case with the (very faint) hope of finally developing enough evidence to arrest a major villain, he spends most of his time mulling over the files of a long-ago unsolved case: a fire in an unsavory hotel where an unidentified body was found, shot to death. Rebus works with DC Siobhan Clarke, a newcomer to his team, on both cases, while at the same time trying to get back into the good graces of his girlfriend, who has kicked him out, and sorting out what to do with his brother Michael, now out of prison and staying at Rebus’s flat. It’s not as if he doesn’t have enough on his plate already, after all…. This is the fifth Rebus novel, and one in which we get more of a glimpse into his personal life, both past and present. Of course, this being Rebus, that personal life is very messy and complicated - and quite believable, which illustrates one of the best things about this series: Mr. Rankin’s ability to conjure up wholly believable, living characters whom the reader comes to know and respect (if not always like). I’m late to the game with this series, the first novel having been published in 1987 and I’m only finding them in 2022, but as they say, better late than never and I know I have loads more books to enjoy before I get caught up! Highly recommended. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Oct 31, 2022 |
Disappointing after Strip Jack which really blew me away. This took half the book to really get moving. Honestly I'd say the first half was a 2 star read and the second half a 4 star so here we are with an average of 3. ( )
  ElegantMechanic | May 28, 2022 |
Definitely a huge improvement over his last Rebus outing, I found myself a little more engaged in this one. Though I have to say, Rankin seems to have such disparate plot points going on that it really takes at least half the novel for it to get going, not sure I have the patience to continue with more of his novels. Once they get going, they tick along nicely, but I find them quite dull until that point. ( )
  TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
The Black Book, originally published in 1993, is the fifth novel in Ian Rankin’s more-popular-than-ever Inspector John Rebus series. I didn’t begin reading the Rebus books until 2003’s A Question of Blood, but it’s been a favorite detective series of mine ever since picking up that one. In more recent months, I’ve started reading the novels from the beginning, fascinated all the while to watch Rebus and his supporting cast gradually morph into the characters I know so well from the later books. It is, I think, in this fifth novel that Ian Rankin really hits his stride, and The Black Book is now one of my favorite ones in the entire series.

On display is an early look at the cranky, funny, insightful, dedicated cop that Rebus really is. Already his doctor has told him to quit smoking and to eat better - an ominous hint of what Rebus’s health will be like just a couple of decades into the future. Because the man spends so many hours of his day working cases, he finds it difficult to share his life with anyone, something he regrets only until he gets so busy again that his social isolation slips from his mind. He is reckless when it comes to placing himself in physical danger, and his equally reckless policing methods always see him in danger of finally losing his badge for good. But with one exception - finally putting away “Big Ger” Cafferty - John Rebus always gets the job done.

“On Monday morning word went around St. Leonard’s police station that Inspector John Rebus was in an impressively worse mood than usual. Some found this hard to believe, and were almost willing to get close enough to Rebus to find out for themselves…almost.”

Rebus has now reached the stage of his policing career where he effectively serves as mentor to the younger cops who report to him. That is the kind of work relationship he has with DS Brian Holmes and, especially, with DC Siobhan Clarke. At the moment, though, Rebus is also dealing with his ex-con brother Michael who has recently returned to Edinburgh and with being kicked out of the house by the woman with whom he’s been living. Thus, the grumpiness on display in the above quote.

And just when it seems that his personal life could not be in more of a shambles than it already is, Rebus gets sucked into a situation at work that rivals every other bad thing already happening to him: DS Holmes gets the back of his head bashed in and is left in a coma, maybe never to wake up again. Rebus wants to know if the attack was work-related, but with Holmes in a coma for days, the only thing the inspector has to work with is Holmes’s “black book,” a notebook filled with investigatory notes that mean little to anyone other than the critically injured detective himself. Rebus, though, is prepared to follow the clues wherever they take him - and after his brother is attacked, it all gets very personal.

Bottom Line: The Black Book is notable because of its development of the Siobhan Clarke character and her budding friendship with Rebus. It also, I think, marks the first time that Rebus and Big Ger Cafferty butt heads in a face-to-face confrontation. Interestingly, almost three decades later, Rebus will still be trying to put away Cafferty, and his bond with Siobhan will be as strong as ever. Too, Rankin is now hitting exactly the right note with his humorous asides and displays of Rebus’s own sense of humor. On offer is the dry, smart kind of wit that never fails to make me laugh - even in the middle of another look at John Rebus’s brutal world. ( )
  SamSattler | Feb 22, 2021 |
A good distracting read. Intriguing complex plot but everything comes together in the end. I got confused with the names at times. ( )
  GeoffSC | Jul 25, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian Rankinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Macpherson, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pieterse, AndersTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodchester, AmyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"To the wicked, all things are wicked; but to the just, all things are just and right."
James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
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There were two of them in the van that early morning, lights on to combat the haar which blew in from the North Sea.
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Inspector Rebus of the Edinburgh police has a busy time. A deported child molester is back in town, a stabbing victim refuses to say who attacked him, and last but not least the gun he bought turns out to be a murder weapon.

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Average: (3.77)
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