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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Tooth and Nail

Ian Rankin

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To purchase Tooth and Nail

Title: Tooth and Nail
Author: Ian Rankin
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992
Length: 293 pages
Availability: Tooth and Nail - US
Tooth and Nail - UK
Tooth and Nail - Canada
Wolfsmale - Deutschland
  • Tooth and Nail is the third John Rebus novel
  • First published in the UK as Wolfman, though since re-issued as Tooth and Nail there as well

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Our Assessment:

B+ : tries to get a bit too fancy, but fundamentally solid, entertaining

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Ian Rankin's series of Inspector John Rebus novels are often praised specifically for his use of Rebus' home turf, Edinburgh, so it's a surprise that in this early volume from the series (number three) Rankin sends his hero to London and barely allows him to set foot in Scotland for the entire length of the novel. It does allow him to present Rebus as even more of a fish out of water, and play up the Scottish angle (a Scotsman in London, barely comprehensible to the locals), but it does feel a bit odd.
       Rebus gets summoned to work on a London case because of his previous success working a serial killer case (see Knots and Crosses -- though note that that was a very different sort of killer) -- and that's what they have on their hands here, someone they call the 'Wolfman' (as the novel was also originally titled). As is often his wont, Rankin provides scenes from the killer's perspective as well, short sections describing the misdeeds; it is useful here (sort of) because it alerts readers to what appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding by the police of who they are dealing with.
       The book is a decent police procedural, as the killer appears to be a few steps ahead of the police (and is very good at not leaving clues behind), while the police -- and especially Rebus -- try to get the Wolfman to slip up. It's a decent cat and mouse game. A psychologist (who isn't exactly what she seems to be) also gets involved in the case -- and with Rebus -- adding to the psychological speculations about the nature of the beast.
       The culture clash between the London police and out-of-towner Rebus is more than a running gag -- the sort of stuff Rankin does well. A bit less successful are Rankin's encounters with his former wife and daughter, now living in London. The fact that sixteen year-old Samantha is involved with an inappropriate character -- who has some ties to someone else involved with the police -- naturally comes into play, if not very impressively.
       Naturally, Rankin sends his hero into the worst housing estate in town, with the usual predictable results -- he just can't help but include such a scene in the book, not that it serves much of a purpose (except for him to get to paint a nicely horrid picture of the unto-its-own world anarchy of British council estates, a favourite Rankin-theme). Naturally, also, there's a final confrontation between the killer and Rebus, in which Rebus is in mortal peril -- Rankin appears unable to tie up his novels any other way.
       Despite so many near-formulaic touches, Tooth and Nail is a good, entertaining read. The doses of humour, the local colour, the culture clash, and Rebus' own personal torment (not too heavy here) -- and a decent mystery behind it all -- make for a satisfying and better than average volume in the series.

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Tooth and Nail: 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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