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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Hanging Garden

Ian Rankin

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To purchase The Hanging Garden

Title: The Hanging Garden
Author: Ian Rankin
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998
Length: 349 pages
Availability: The Hanging Garden - US
The Hanging Garden - UK
The Hanging Garden - Canada
Le jardin des pendus - France
  • The Hanging Garden is the ninth John Rebus novel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good, powerful mix of storylines, among the best in the series

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Spectator . 17/10/1998 Harriet Waugh
TLS . 20/2/1998 Patricia Craig

  From the Reviews:
  • "The new novel, The Hanging Garden, is no less assured or ambitious, with its Bosnian-refugee-prostitute problem, its drug-importing racket and its pursuit of a possible Nazi war criminal, along with all the usual grim and spectacular misdemeanours of the urban delinquent. (...) Gallant, fallible and persistent, Inspector Rebus, whose name means an enigma, or a kind of visual pun, is up there with the tough and unencumbered heroes of the genre" - Patricia Craig, 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:

       In The Hanging Garden sometime heavy drinker Rebus is -- for the most part -- still on the wagon. But it ain't easy. This is the book where Rebus' daughter Sammy gets it, run down by a hit-and-run driver. It's one of the first scenes, the book then flashing back to what led up to that event, before barrelling ahead, as Rebus tries to track down the driver as well as working on several other investigations while Sammy lies comatose for most of the novel, her fate uncertain.
       Rebus actually enlists the help of incarcerated crime boss 'Big Ger' Cafferty (who still runs things, even from behind bars) in finding who is responsible for his daughter's injuries, so that he might be able to privately exact revenge (rather than letting the authorities do it for him). As with much in the book, things turn out not to be so simply black and white as Rebus might like.
       Cafferty is willing to help, because he could use a spot of help himself. Another gangster, Tommy Telford, looks to be taking over the territory, and a mob-war seems likely to break out as Cafferty's and Telford's interests and men are alternately attacked. Here, too, things are not quite as straightforward as they seem (eventually even the Japanese yakuza get involved), and Rebus has his hands full as he tries to get Cafferty to back down, promising he'll bring down Telford -- in his own way. That ain't easy, either, and the costs wind up being very high.
       Among the operations Telford is involved in is prostitution, and one of his girls, a Yugoslavian girl called Candice, scared and speaking practically no English, becomes a pawn between Rebus and Telford. Rebus happened to stow her away at his daughter's home, just before Sammy was hit .....
       A lot of what Rebus has to deal with gets very personal, and that's a problem:

     Never get personally involved: it was the golden rule. And practically every case he worked, Rebus broke it. He sometimes felt that the reason he became so involved in his cases was that he had no life of his own. He could only live through other people.
       With Sammy in hospital Rebus' wife is back in the picture again -- or at least in town --, another reminder of his failures as a family man. And girlfriend Patience hovers near too.
       The case Rebus started out working on also is one that leads into very murky territory: a local retired academic is accused of being a war criminal, responsible for a massacre of civilians in France in World War II. But some highly-placed interests don't appear very eager for Rebus to find out much, as it might lend support to the rumour that there was a so-called 'Rat Line', "an 'underground railway,' delivering Nazis -- sometimes with the help of the Vatican -- from their Soviet persecutors", some of them possibly winding up quite comfortably in Britain.
       Yes, Rebus has a lot to keep him busy, but Rankin weaves these different storyline together even better than usual, making for one of the more compelling Rebus-mysteries. Some of it is too summarily resolved, and Rebus' obligatory near-death experience almost comic in its absurdity, but on the whole this is one of Rankin's more accomplished efforts. Little turns out black or white, and Rankin does the grim grey outcomes very well. The storylines are neither predictable nor too far-fetched, and all are concluded and tied together more satisfactorily than in most of the Rebus-books.
       The Hanging Garden has a different feel than most of the Rebus-novels, perhaps in large part because Rebus is more focussed on others than himself. Laying off the booze seems to help: there's less depressive self-reflection than usual (except the obligatory mulling over how he's failed as family man and friend, and a few too many ostensibly appropriate music-references), and for once the people he has to worry about most -- Sammy, Candice, Sammy's boyfriend, some colleagues -- are generally in considerably more danger than he is. (The weakest scene in the book is when one of the villains does get his hands on Rebus, a gratuitous brutal episode that's an ill fit in the book).
       Definitely among the best in the series.

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The Hanging Garden: 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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