Knots and Crosses
Reviewed: February 21, 2009
By: Ian Rankin
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur
272 pages, $13.95
So, after last week’s confession I went and dug out my copy of Rebus:
The Early Years, and read the first mystery in the series one morning. The book
has remained in print since 1987, is available in several different presentations
and hasn’t dated very badly at all.
Detective Inspector John Rebus seems cut from the template for moody British
policemen when we meet him. He has a failed marriage, a daughter that he gets
to spend a little bit of time with (and doesn’t understand) and a career
which seems to be stalled. This book appeared in the same year as Gallows View,
the first of Peter Robinson’s Ian Banks mysteries, so it’s unlikely
that either man influenced the other in their creative processes.
Rebus is ex-army, a former member of the SAS, actually, and whatever happened
to him during that stretch has stayed with him, leaving him with nightmares
and in a near permanent state of depression. He doesn’t get on well with
his only brother, Michael, either, but that relationship is strained by more
than just family history, as we discover. At the office, he gets the job done,
but he has no flair for self promotion, has missed chances for advancement and
is not popular.
There has been a series of killings. Two girls have been strangled. Most of
the usual motives don’t seem to apply and the police are without much
in the way of clues. What no one, included Rebus, realizes is that he has been
receiving clues regularly: crank mail containing knots and crosses which relate
to a period of his life he has repressed, and which utimately lead to the solution.
We’re most of the way through the book before this becomes clear and it
moves pretty quickly after that.
While depressing in tone, the novel was a good, fast read.
By the way. I goofed last week. The final book in the Rebus series is called
Exit Music, not Exit Wounds.