November 22, 2015


Why the Inspector Rebus novels will endure (Sam Jordison,10 November 2015, The Guardian)

Each is a finely rendered snapshot of a specific time and place. The descriptions of 1980s Edinburgh struck me forcefully when I read Knots and Crosses last week (alongside plenty of other Reading group contributors). This week, reading The Falls, I was even more aware of how well the novel captures a specific time. And how interesting it was to realise that this era now seems long gone, even though the novel was only published in 2001.

Before I try to explain why you should read The Falls if you want to know about life in Scotland around the turn of the millennium, a few caveats. Obviously, the characters are egregious. I'm not saying that everyone in Edinburgh was a criminal, a regular at the Oxford Bar or a dour, violent policeman, terrified of the inside of his own head. Nor do I want to overstate the realism in the novel. As in most of the Rankin books I've read, things get pretty wild in the penultimate chapter. That is not a criticism. I love the catharsis, the adrenaline ride, the camp confessional speeches and watching Rebus rumble his way through a good physical challenge. Definitely part of the fun, as far as I'm concerned, though you have to take the action with an Edinburgh chippy-sized portion of salt.

But in other ways, The Falls is an intriguing bit of social, technological and political history - and one that feels real both factually and emotionally. It tells us important things about the world in which it is set. Just as The Maltese Falcon immediately throws its reader back to 1920s San Francisco, and Sherlock Holmes is one of the first reference points for late 19th-century London, Rebus does the business for his generation in Edinburgh.

"I think it's astonishing that so many people would want to read about a dour Presbyterian Edinburgh cop," Rankin once said. 

Heck, when I asked him (it's the first question) he seemed surprised to think of Rebus as a Presbyterian.

Posted by at November 22, 2015 7:57 AM


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