Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

I’ve been planning to start reading Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series for a while now. With the first book of the series – Knots and Crosses, I certainly haven’t been disappointed.

In this story, Rebus, still a Detective Sergeant, finds himself part of a team investigating the kidnapping and murder of a number of girls. The girls are mostly around 12 years old which is the same age as Rebus’s daughter.

Rebus was in the army before joining the police force, and he is haunted by his past experiences. He drinks too much, smokes too much, goes without sleep and generally abuses his health. His wife has left him for a younger man. He is not well respected by his superiors in the police force. He has missed out on promotions and is usually given the grottiest jobs to do within investigations.

But when Rebus starts receiving anonymous crank letters – some containing a knotted piece of string, others containing a pair of matchsticks tied into a cross, he finds that he is linked to the current murder investigation. He must finally face up to his past to work out why the murderer has specifically targeted him.

So, Rebus spends most of the story blundering through all night pubs, avoiding his brother Michael (who’s not all he seems to be), trying to spend time with his new lady love – Gill, and avoiding the aggressive reporter Jim Stevens. Until, crisis forces him to confront his past.

The setting of the book in Edinburgh was excellent and a bit unusual – ‘You never think of that sort of thing happening in Edinburg, do you?’

The book was focused much more on the character of Rebus than on the crime, and he is a fascinating character. The series finally concluded in 2007 with the 17th book – ‘Exit Music’, but for now I intend to go through the series in order. Book 2 is ‘Hide and Seek’.


Book Published 1987


See a full list of books by Ian Rankin

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