Knots & Crosses, published in 1987, is the first book Ian Rankin published and it is so well-written it could just as well be his 25th. Originally intended as a stand alone novel, Knots & Crosses launched the highly successful Inspector John Rebus mystery series. Like many heroes of the crime genre, Rebus. is a tortured soul who smokes and drinks too much. Divorced, he is only able to see his twelve year old daughter once a week. Rebus has recently received some strange notes with small things included, such as a string of knots, and a cross made of matchsticks. He thinks nothing of this, considering the letters cranks, even though the letters are delivered to his door and not through the mail. As for the crime element, young girls the age of Rebus’ daughter are being abducted and found dead a day later, with no signs of sexual assault.
There are too many ways to hit you with spoilers, so that is all I’m writing about the plot.
The city of Edinburgh in all its dark and damp plays a huge part in the story. Described in raw, yet affectionate detail readers tour Edinburgh’s highs and (mostly) lows. Each character has a favorite pub in their neighborhood, and important landmarks and city buildings and the routes taken throughout the city to get to these places made this reader feel as if I were getting a little tour.
|Central Library-important location in the story.|
Besides Rebus there is Gill, the female press liaison, Jim Stevens, a disenchanted reporter, and Rebus’ brother, who has troubles of his own. Readers follow these people together and on their own, to a frightening, harrowing conclusion, revealing Rebus’ demons, uncovering his brother’s secret, and opening the reporter’s eyes to a world with a brighter future.
Although this is a series, it surely isn’t cozy, but it’s not a detailed police procedural either. It’s more of a character-driven mystery. The characters were interesting without belaboring their quirks and demons, the descriptions of Edinburgh and Scottish life were interesting and the mysteries of the letters and the missing girls very engaging. I will definitely read more John Rebus mysteries.
I checked this book out from my town library and it fulfills two of my challenges, Snagged @ the Library and Cloak & Dagger.