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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Knots and Crosses

Ian Rankin

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To purchase Knots and Crosses

Title: Knots and Crosses
Author: Ian Rankin
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987
Length: 228 pages
Availability: Knots and Crosses - US
Knots and Crosses - UK
Knots and Crosses - Canada
Verborgene Muster - Deutschland
  • Knots and Crosses is the first John Rebus novel

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Our Assessment:

B : some good writing and ideas, but too hurriedly presented, and too simplistic

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Knots and Crosses is the first John Rebus book. It is self-contained and ambitious. The possibility that a series might develop around this character is there, but the John Rebus that is introduced here is a character whose life-story and lingering pains and hurts all impact on a single case: it seems more the culmination of a career than a beginning.
       For all its ambition Knots and Crosses is also a surprisingly thin book. Most of the Rebus novels that have followed have had considerably more heft. Unfortunately, this story is as large as practically any Rankin has written; but the presentation here is rushed, often skimming speedily along on the surface, and there are many bits he could linger over at considerably greater length (not the least of which is the resolution, as the aftermath of events that have been extraordinarily traumatic for Rebus' family is barely touched upon).
       The story is a sensational (and too elaborate one): a serial killer is kidnapping and then killing young girls in Edinburgh. Surprisingly, there is no evidence that the girls were sexually molested or assaulted; they are simply (if somewhat gruesomely) killed.
       Detective Sergeant John Rebus is assigned to the case, a top priority in Edinburgh, where the locals like to think this sort of thing can't happen. At the same time Rebus is also receiving anonymous notes which say things like: "THERE ARE CLUES EVERYWHERE" and "FOR THOSE WHO READ BETWEEN THE LINES". And Rebus happens to have a daughter, Samantha, "eleven going on twenty-one". And so it's pretty clear pretty soon where this is heading.
       Still, Rankin does complicate matters nicely: there's Rebus' brother, Michael, the favoured son who followed in dad's footsteps and became a successful hypnotist -- but whose life (and, especially, success) isn't all it seems to be. There's the journalist Jim Stevens, who's well aware of what Michael Rebus is involved in, and who wonders what John's role in all this is. There are the women Rebus gets involved with: from Rhona Phillips, his estranged wife, to Gill Templer, a D.I. herself (and the Press Liaison Officer on this case). And, most of all, there's Rebus' past, the years in the army and SAS that he won't -- or can't -- talk about.
       Unfortunately, Rankin also tries way too hard in parts: behind it all is an over the top James Patterson-type serial killer, the way he selects his victims alone far too 'clever' to maintain any semblance of realism.
       The clues finally fall into place -- and Michael's hypnotic skills reveal the last pieces (another less than ideal plot device) -- and it comes down to one last, frantic hunt and show-down. It's all a bit much -- and presented much too fast, as in a one-hour television show -- but there's some talent at work here. There are a few too many pub scenes, and the central idea borders on the ridiculous, but Rankin shows a nice touch occasionally, and it takes some skill to make such an outlandish story readable, which he does.
       Thin, but a decent fast read -- and with a gleam of promise to it.

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Knots and Crosses: 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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