Review

The Falls: The Inspector Rebus Series #14

by Ian Rankin



Although many American readers have only become acquainted with
Detective Inspector John Rebus in the past few years, U. K. mystery
fans have followed the cases of Ian Rankin's surly Scottish
policeman since 1987 with KNOTS AND CROSSES. With THE FALLS, Rankin
takes the reader and Rebus on another dizzying ride and shows why
he's rightfully considered one of Britain's best living crime
novelists.

When the collegiate daughter of a wealthy banking tycoon goes
missing --- and possibly murdered --- the only clues Rebus and
fellow detective Siobhan Clarke can find lie in a computer puzzle
game in which the girl was involved. Run by a person identified
only through his e-mail as "Quizmaster," Clarke finds herself
playing the exact same "game" as the missing student. What --- if
anything --- Quizmaster has to do with the disappearance is slowly
unraveled as Rebus and Clarke run their parallel (and sometimes
conflicting) investigations. Their work leads them on wildly
divergent detours, including the real-life centuries old cases of
Scottish body snatching, pathology, unsolved decades-old murders,
and the continual appearance of tiny handmade coffins with dolls
inside, left mysteriously at scenes of crimes both old and new. And
with Rebus's personal and professional life in turmoil, several
supporting fellow officers on the force from previous novels play
integral roles in the investigation --- not always with an eye
toward helping Rebus.

On the surface, John Rebus has a lot of familiar (and cliché)
characteristics of detectives since the era of Raymond Chandler and
Dashiell Hammett: He's a lone wolf, his methods are unorthodox, and
he drinks. Drinks heavily, that is, spending almost as much
time in a variety of pubs as he spends at his desk at the station.
But it's Rankin's skill as a mystery writer that keeps Rebus from
ever falling into parody or tiredness as well as genuinely
developing his character over a body (no pun intended) of
work.

In THE FALLS, Rebus has crossed over into his 50s, no longer able
to withstand the physical punishment or exertion of previous books
or even hold as much lager. But for what the book lacks in
slam-bang action, it makes up for with its cyber-based mind game
plot and the strong, compelling cast of suspects, informants, and
law enforcement officers.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of the Rebus novels, though, is
Rankin's literary use of Scotland and in particular Rebus's home
base of Edinburgh. Always writing with a keen and detailed eye
toward his setting's geography, history, sociology, and pop culture
lingo, he writes an extremely vivid picture that surpasses even
respected travel guides. And the grittiness of his depiction of
Edinburgh's seamier side (not so much explored in this particular
book) is unmatched. Of all mystery authors writing today, Rankin
ranks high up there in knowing his fictional creation's "turf."
It's enjoyable and accessible even to those whose knowledge of
Scotland is limited to the All Things Scottish store from the Mike
Myers "Saturday Night Live" sketches ("If it's not Scottish, it's
crap!").

THE FALLS is another solid addition to the growing case file of DI
John Rebus. And Rankin --- whose popularity shot up with the Gold
Dagger Award winning and Edgar Award nominated 1997 book BLACK AND
BLUE --- continues to break through to a wider audience. Even if
they might turn down a pint of Guinness for a can of Bud
Light.

Reviewed by Bob Ruggiero on January 21, 2011

The Falls: The Inspector Rebus Series #14
by Ian Rankin

  • Publication Date: February 17, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312982402
  • ISBN-13: 9780312982409