Rankin, Ian 1960–
Rankin, Ian 1960–
(Jack Harvey, Ian James Raakin)
PERSONAL: Born April 28, 1960, in Cardenden, Fife, Scotland; married; two sons. Education: University of Edinburgh, M.A. (with honors), 1982.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Dominick Abel, 146 W. 82nd St., No. 1B, New York, NY 10024.
CAREER: Novelist and short-story and nonfiction writer. Worked variously as a swineherd, a taxman, viticulturist, hi-fi journalist, and folktale collector.
MEMBER: Crime Writers' Association (United Kingdom), International Association of Crime Writers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Elected a Hawthornden fellow in 1987; Chandler-Fulbright fellowship in detective fiction, 1991–92; Dagger Award for best short story, Crime Writers' Association, 1994; Edgar Allan Poe Award, 2004, for Resurrection Men; various short story prizes.
The Flood, Polygon (Edinburgh, Scotland), 1986.
Watchman, Bodley Head (London, England), 1988, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
Westwind, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1990.
Set in Darkness, Orion (London, England), 2000.
The Falls, Orion (London, England), 2001.
"INSPECTOR REBUS" SERIES; DETECTIVE NOVELS
Knots and Crosses, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1987.
Hide and Seek: A John Rebus Mystery, Barrie & Jenkins, 1991, Penzler Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Strip Jack, Orion (London, England), 1992, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Wolfman, Century (London, England), 1992.
The Black Book: An Inspector Rebus Novel, Orion (London, England), 1993, Penzler Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Mortal Causes, Orion (London, England), 1994, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Let it Bleed, Orion (London, England), 1995, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Black and Blue, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
The Hanging Garden, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Dead Souls, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 1999.
Death Is Not the End, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2000.
Set in Darkness, Orion (London, England), 2000.
Resurrection Men, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.
A Question of Blood, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.
Fleshmarket Close, Orion (London, England), 2004.
Fleshmarket Alley, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2005.
NOVELS; AS JACK HARVEY
Witch Hunt, Headline (London, England), 1993.
Bleeding Hearts, Headline (London, England), 1994.
Blood Hunt, Headline (London, England), 1995.
A Good Hanging and Other Stories (short stories), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1992.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine; contributor of articles to periodicals.
SIDELIGHTS: Ian Rankin has "established himself as one of the most talented young British crime novelists," in the opinion of Twentieth-Century Crime and Mystery Writers essayist Ian A. Bell. Rankin is best known for his series of crime novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus. In these works, which are often referred to as "police procedurals" for their focus on solving a crime, Rankin combines the dialect and setting of his native Scotland with poetic prose and gritty realism.
The "Rebus" stories are set in Edinburgh, and Bell noted that they "often exploit the stark contrast between that city's genteel facade and some of its squalid realities." Rebus himself is a complex, well-drawn character, in the opinion of numerous reviewers. He is sensitive, brooding, and somewhat insecure, but he is also tough and relentless. He is aware that even when he solves a case, the triumph of justice is fleeting; there will always be more evil and corruption. Booklist contributor Emily Melton noted that "Rankin is a genius at finding the perfect blend of curmudgeonly guile, stubborn gruffness, and unsuspecting vulnerability for Rebus, who … is a refreshing if lonely champion of truth and justice." Melton also praised Rankin for delivering "sparkling wit, superb plotting, and a host of surprising twists."
Rankin introduced readers to Rebus with his second novel, Knots and Crosses. In this work, the detective attempts to find the murderer of several young girls with the help of his policewoman girlfriend and Jim Stevens, a reporter. A critic for Books dubbed Knots and Crosses a "well constructed, exciting" story, and a Kirkus Reviews contributor praised Rankin's "solidly drawn characters, [and] keen psychological insights." Reporter Stevens makes a brief appearance in Rankin's next effort, Watchman, in which British Secret Service agent Miles Flint struggles with IRA terrorists. Although a contributor for Kirkus Reviews found this work "slightly disappointing" in comparison with Knots and Crosses, the reviewer also highlighted the book's "tense, convincing finale."
In Wolfman, Rebus is temporarily reassigned to the London office to help in the investigation of a serial killer whose signature mark is the bite he takes out of his victims. A reviewer for Books remarked that "Rebus is a character drawn in the round, and realism is the hallmark of the book." In Strip Jack, Rankin's next mystery to feature Rebus, a popular member of the British Parliament is found in a brothel during a police raid, shortly after which his wife is beaten to death. Critical response was generally positive to what New York Times Book Review critic Marilyn Stasio dubbed an "intricately knotted murder plot"; in the Chicago Tribune, Dick Adler singled out Rankin's "crisp, refreshing prose," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor highlighted Rankin's "offbeat characters and … eccentric but appealing narrative style."
In Hide and Seek, Rebus investigates a modern-day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde case. Male prostitutes are the victims, and their killer appears to be a devil worshiper. "For all its modern grit, this multilayered story is as deeply moralistic as Stevenson's classic horror tale about the divided passions of the human soul," mused Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Book Review. "In Mr. Rankin's subtle treatment of the theme, every character seems to have two faces—or a Cain-like brother—to reflect his corrupt dark side." Black and Blue finds Rebus looking into another serial killer case—this one involving a "copycat killer" who imitates the grisly crimes of another murderer Rebus was involved with thirty years earlier. A Kirkus Reviews writer called Black and Blue Rebus's "biggest and most grueling" case and added, "Rankin's dexterity in juggling plots and threats and motives lights up the darkness with a poet's grace. Reading him is like watching somebody juggle a dozen bottles of single malt without spilling a drop."
Rebus's adult daughter, Sammy, is depicted throughout the series as one of the few bright points in his personal life. In The Hanging Garden, Sammy is almost killed in a suspicious hit-and-run accident. Rebus believes the incident is related to some of his recent work. With his daughter threatened, Rebus's "ferocity is ratcheted up a notch," according to Bill Ott in Booklist. As Ott continued: "Nobody does grit like Rankin. The Rebus novels live on texture; the taste of cold coffee and the grinding edges of frayed nerves take on a visceral reality as the cops slog toward answers that only bring more questions. Against the unremitting grayness of this world, Rebus's beleaguered humanity shines in bold relief."
In Fleshmarket Close, the crusty policeman discovers that he has sympathy for the collectively oppressed. Senay Boztas wrote in the London Sunday Times, "The case forces [Rebus] … to confront the plight of refugees and the conditions in which they are held at a detention camp, based on the notorious Dungavel centre in Lanarkshire," and described Fleshmarket Close as Rankin's "most overtly political novel to date."
As Bell observed, although there is often extreme violence in the "Rebus" books, Rankin's "cool and laconic tone prevents the narratives from sensationalising the events they include, and perhaps the most impressive feature of his writing is the way it seems to meditate on the complexities of human motivation…. Earlier Rebus novels struggled to articulate these complex issues, but more recent efforts have been extremely successful."
Rankin once noted of his series: "My Inspector Rebus books are Scottish novels first, and mysteries second. I want to write about contemporary Scotland, and particularly contemporary Edinburgh, showing how the past infuses (and infects) the present. A novel like The Black Book depends more on the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson and James Hogg than it does on any whodunit forebear. Edinburgh is schizophrenic; it exhibits a definite dual personality. A look into history told me that this was nothing new, and hinted that in writing about my nation's twisted present, I might be saying something about its past psychoses too. A critic with an eye for an oxymoron once stated that I'd invented 'Tartan Noir.' Maybe that's not so far from the truth."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Spy Fiction: A Connoisseur's Guide, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1990.
Booklist, December 1, 1996, p. 643; October 1, 1997, p. 309; August 19, 1998.
Books, April, 1987, review of Knots and Crosses, p. 32; March, 1992, p. 12.
Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1994.
Entertainment Weekly, January 30, 1998, p. 61.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1987, p. 1117; May 1, 1991, p. 568; January 1, 1994, p. 22; September 1, 1994, p. 1171; October 1, 1996, p. 1430; October 1, 1997, review of Black and Blue.
Library Journal, December, 1996, p. 151; August, 1997, p. 168.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 10, 1994, p. 8.
New Statesman and Society, November 13, 1992, p. 36.
New York Times Book Review, April 17, 1994, p. 19; July 3, 1994, p. 17; October 9, 1994, p. 34; January 21, 1996, p. 31; January 5, 1997, p. 20; December 14, 1997, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, January 17, 1994, p. 410; September 12, 1994, p. 85; October 7, 1996, p. 64; August 25, 1997, review of Black and Blue, p. 48.
Sunday Times (London, England), March 28, 2004, Senay Boztas, "It's PC Rebus As Detective Finds His Conscience," p. 14.
Times Literary Supplement, May 2, 1986; September 23, 1994, review of Mortal Causes, p. 22; February 28, 1997, p. 22.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), March 6, 1994, p. 6; January 5, 1997, p. 4.
Wilson Library Bulletin, April, 1994, p. 98.
Ian Rankin Home Page, http://www.ianrankin.net/ (August 15, 2004).