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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Falls

Ian Rankin

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To purchase The Falls

Title: The Falls
Author: Ian Rankin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001
Length: 395 pages
Availability: The Falls - US
The Falls - UK
The Falls - Canada
  • The Falls is the twelfth John Rebus novel

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Our Assessment:

B : decent police procedural, but a bit flat

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph A 19/3/2001 Antonia Fraser
The Guardian . 5/5/2001 Maxim Jakubowski
The NY Times Book Rev. . 4/11/2001 Marilyn Stasio
The Observer A 18/3/2001 Peter Guttridge
The Spectator . 7/4/2001 Harriet Waugh
TLS . 23/3/2001 Karl Miller

  Review Consensus:

  Generally loved it

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Falls, the 12th full-length Inspector Rebus story, finds his creator, Ian Rankin, at his brilliant, mordant best, with the dark heart of the city featuring almost as strongly as Rebus himself. (...) This being Ian Rankin, The Falls is also a bang-up-to-the-minute story in which a sinister controller called the Quizmaster features." - Antonia Fraser, Daily Telegraph

  • "Rankin masterfully pulls his fascinating plot together, and his sense of place casts a powerful shadow on this subtle tale of the recurrence of evil." - Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian

  • "(A)nother grimly engrossing procedural in a stylish noir series by Ian Rankin (...) There is much beauty in Rankin's city (...) and enough secrets in this series to keep us puzzled for a good long time." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The Falls is at its best as a series of engrossing character studies. It is a complex mystery novel, as you would expect from Rankin, one of a handful of truly outstanding British mystery writers. But what is most fascinating is the interaction between the misfit cast assembled to help solve the mystery of the disappearance of the student daughter of an influential Edinburgh banker. (...) Terrific." - Peter Guttridge, The Observer

  • "The Falls, although less layered and tense (....) than some of Rankin's other novels, it is still very enjoyable and shouldn't be missed." - Harriet Waugh, The Spectator

  • "His latest novel is crowded but not slow. It is a very skilful entertainment, which moves from a maze of Internet mind-games to a fighting finish, not short on blows and blood. Its clues are as learned and crossword-puzzling as any in John Buchan; some are less soluble than Buchan's" - Karl Miller, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Falls is more of a police procedural novel than many in the Rebus-series. The focus on the police, with prominent roles for Rebus' colleagues and a good deal of office politics, is welcome. Unfortunately, the mystery that's to be solved falls a bit flat.
       With the retirement of Detective Chief Superintendent 'Farmer' Watson and Gill Templer promoted there's some jockeying for position down below. DS Ellen Wylie is given a chance to become press liaison -- but she's not given much of a chance. And Rebus is among the few who manages to stay largely beyond the fray.
       The case at hand involves the disappearance of Philippa 'Flip' Balfour, daughter of a well-to-do and influential family, with a house outside Edinburgh near a place grandiosely called The Falls (which just barely lives up to the name). There are a few things that might be clues: a crudely made miniature coffin found in the area (not the first of its kind, it turns out), as well as an online quiz-game Flip was apparently playing.
       Rebus' colleague Siobhan Clarke is particularly intrigued by the online quiz and the anonymous figure (known simply as Quizmaster) behind it, and she tries to follow in Flip's online footsteps. Rankin is, unfortunately, clearly not computer savvy, and the level of sophistication regarding technical matters sounds closer to about 1991 than 2001 (when the book was written) -- in either case, Rankin sorely underestimates the technical know-how the police would have at their disposal. Clarke's online game-playing is terribly quaint -- and completely unrealistic, as is almost all the computer-related dialogue (" 'What are the chat rooms ?' - 'Tekky stuff' ").
       Worse yet, the quiz-game that is played is one with simply terrible clues -- and not much of a game at that. Rankin was clearly straining here, and he did not come up with anything that is anywhere close to inspired (but at least Rebus does learn the meaning of the word 'existentialism' -- though it's hard to believe he had never come across it before).
       Other aspects of the novel are better, including the personal demons affecting those who knew Flip. Especially good are the intra-office politics and how they affect the case. New characters also include a love-interest for Rebus (who conveniently has some expertise in some of the required areas regarding this case), as well as a properly creepy journalist, Steven Holly (taking the place of Jim Stevens, who was done away with two novels back).
       Aside from the case, Rebus worries a bit about his drinking, refuses to go to the doctor (this is meant to be an ongoing humorous bit, no doubt, but it's not very funny), and is considering selling his apartment and getting something smaller -- thinking, for a while at least: "It was time for a change."
       There are enough decent scenes and lots of tension (personal and otherwise) to mildly hold the reader's interest, and there is some decent resolution. Rankin does a lot of the basic stuff -- the writing, the suspense, and especially the personal (and professional) relationships -- well, but he's built it on a flimsy situation here, and the book groans under the strain. The Falls is readable, but not up to his usual standards.

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The Falls: Reviews: Ian Rankin: Other books by Ian Rankin under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Ian Rankin was born in 1960.

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© 2004-2009 the complete review

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