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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Fleshmarket Close
(Fleshmarket Alley)

Ian Rankin

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Fleshmarket Alley

Title: Fleshmarket Close
Author: Ian Rankin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004
Length: 420 pages
Availability: Fleshmarket Alley - US
Fleshmarket Close - UK
Fleshmarket Close - Canada
  • UK title: Fleshmarket Close
  • US title: Fleshmarket Alley
  • Fleshmarket Close is the fifteenth John Rebus novel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : solid entertainment

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly A- 4/2/2005 Michael Endelman
New Statesman A 4/10/2004 Rebecca Gowers
The NY Times . 14/2/2005 Janet Maslin
The NY Times Book Rev. . 6/2/2005 Marilyn Stasio
The Observer . 14/11/2004 Peter Guttridge
The Spectator . 20/11/2004 Harriet Waugh
TLS . 1/10/2004 Joseph Farrell

  Review Consensus:

  Not quite a consensus, but generally think it's very good

  From the Reviews:
  • "Full of wit and a wonderfully dry observational tone, Rankin's postcolonial mystery is as multifaceted and masterful as the single-malt whiskey Inspector Rebus favors after a long day of sleuthing." - Michael Endelman, Entertainment Weekly

  • "Rankin takes these disparate threads and, through the deceptively downbeat labours of his protagonist, brilliantly ravels them together. This does not feel contrived. (...) Rankin's taut sentences give the narrative customary pace; but what is really striking is the thread of Dickensian anger running through the book." - Rebecca Gowers, New Statesman

  • "(A)s is often the case with Mr. Rankin's books, the story is secondary to the pleasure of Rebus's company. Even though he has lately discovered text messaging (...), he remains a gruff, attractive throwback to gumshoes gone by." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times

  • "Not even a superior genre specimen like Fleshmarket Alley, Ian Rankin's latest Edinburgh police procedural featuring Inspector John Rebus, escapes the consequences of good prose gone to flab. (...) But once Rankin introduces a third plot line in the historic district -- a bizarre business about a skeleton stolen by medical students and buried in Fleshmarket Alley -- the narrative loses its bearings. Rankin writes like a son of a gun, but sometimes more is just too much." - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The plotting shows Rankin's usual finesse but the delight of the story is in the characterisations. Rebus might be a template but each novel takes us deeper into his troubled soul. In many ways, Fleshmarket Close is Rankin's best novel yet and that's saying something." - Peter Guttridge, The Observer

  • "He is a good cop, and a masterly creation, and here his investigations and mishaps will enthral his many admirers. Ian Rankin is showing no sign of a loss of form." - Joseph Farrell, 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:

       Fleshmarket Close finds Detective Inspector John Rebus being nudged ever closer to the sidelines. His observation: "I'm not supposed to be here," are the opening words of the book, and that is certainly the message someone is trying to send. The CID office at his old station had been downsized out of existence, and he's been moved over to Gayfield Square, where he's so welcome they don't even bother getting him a proper desk (unlike his colleague Siobhan Clarke, who also got shipped here). But Rebus isn't a behind-the-desk kind of guy, anyway: he tends to be on the move -- or at the pub (any pub).
       There are a couple of bodies and mysteries in Fleshmarket Close: two skeletons dug up at a pub, a murdered asylum seeker, a girl whose sister was raped who has disappeared (with the rapist getting his soon later). Little is originally what it seems (starting with those skeletons), and pretty much everything winds up being connected.
       A main focus is the refugees and asylum seekers, many living in illegal sublets or officially kept penned up at a place called Whitemire. Rebus even gets semi-involved with an activist, Caro Quinn -- known as "Our Lady of the Vigils", because she spends much time as a lonely protester near the detention centre.
       The mysteries are decently intertwined (with a very nice final denouement), but except for one or two 'action'-scenes, it's a very sedate police procedural. There's the usual driving to and fro and all about, and the various interrogations and conversations, and the pieces slowly fall into place. Throughout, there's a good deal about the situation of refugees in contemporary Britain, with Rankin managing not come off as too moralising (closer to demoralising, if anything). As always, Rankin captures Scotland -- and Edinburgh and its neighbourhoods, in particular -- very nicely.
       Rankin's near-fling with Caro Quinn provides some spark and tension -- including, somewhat unexpectedly, from Siobhan Clarke who isn't quite sure how to get over that one kiss with Rebus -- but the focus isn't as strongly on Rebus' personal demons as in most of the previous volumes in this series. Indeed, despite some of the horrors and unpleasantness he deals with, he seems jollier than usual.
       Rebus fans won't be disappointed, and Fleshmarket Close is a nicely satisfying read, but it's nothing really special either.

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Fleshmarket Close: 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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© 2005-2009 the complete review

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