Onyx reviews: Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin
Ian Rankin is the UK's best-selling crime writer, and his readership is
quickly growing on this side of the Atlantic. His protagonist is Inspector John
Rebus, a gruff, heavy-drinking lone wolf police inspector, made from the same
mold as many other hard-boiled detectives. Through Rebus, Rankin delves beneath
his native Edinburgh's fašade to lay bare a side of the city not many tourists
Rebus will soon face mandatory retirement. Despite an excellent track record,
he's never been a darling of his superiors. Now they're openly encouraging him
to consider retiring early. In his new headquarters, he is being treated as
"surplus to requirements." He has no desk and is forced to cadge time
on momentarily idle computers.
Because no one cares what he is up to these days-so long as he doesn't cause
trouble-Rebus tags along on a murder call at Knoxland, a housing project that
has been adopted by immigrants with dubious documentation. Is the man-a former
Kurdish journalist-dead because he witnessed something he shouldn't have seen,
or simply because he encountered one of Knoxland's numerous violent offenders?
Meanwhile, Siobhan Clarke has loaned herself out to the Banehall police to
assist in the search for a missing teenage girl. Siobhan knows the girl and her
family-the elder daughter was raped several years earlier and committed suicide
in the aftermath. The rapist is now out of prison and attempting to reintegrate
himself into society, much to the community's distress. Her case converges with
Rebus' in a surprising way via a Glasgow crime lord with ties to slave labor who
has recently taken up residence in Edinburgh.
Siobhan, though younger than her mentor, has acquired many of Rebus' less
admirable traits. Rebus subscribes to a holistic approach to detecting, being
rude to everyone until he ruffles someone's feathers. Siobhan is more
diplomatic, but is as prone as Rebus to going it alone and taking liberties with
established procedure. The two understand each other well, and at times seem on
the verge of becoming real friends-or more-but their personalities preclude
intimacy on any level.
Rankin's books aren't usually issue-driven, but in Fleshmarket Close he explores
the immigration situation and race relations in Scotland. He portrays almost
Dickensian treatment of immigrants who are being processed out of the country.
Rebus is the main voice on the subject, and his opinion is quite clear. The
detention center where refugees are confined is little better than an internment
camp, and the plight of one family tweaks Rebus' emotions to the point where he
is seen delivering toys to young children.
No one would ever mistake Rebus for Santa Claus, but the cantankerous inspector
has definitely softened in recent books. He's still as sharp as a razor blade
when it comes to solving crimes, but he is less abrasive (to the right people).
Even whiskey that makes a person wince from its bite can mellow with age.
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