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									―Black and Blue,‖ (1997) is eighth in the Detective Chief Inspector John
Rebus series, by the outstanding, award-winning, author Ian Rankin,
currently the best-selling author of British mysteries in the United Kingdom.
The book’s a powerhouse, winner of the prestigious Macallan Gold
Dagger Award for Fiction, and nominated for an Edgar Award. It can, like
most of his work, be described as a police procedural, within the tartan
noir school, and it is largely set in Edinburgh: the east coast Edinburgh is
more or less Rankin’s home town, as he has made it Rebus’s. But
Rebus/Rankin clock up some miles in this one, as the cases Rebus is
working, or interested in, take him to Glasgow and Aberdeen.

In the book at hand, Rebus catches the case of an oil-rig worker, who was
based in Aberdeen, but called Edinburgh home, gruesomely murdered.
At the same time, an old, unsolved cold case, that of Bible John, a serial
killer of young women, who also moved, in the 1960s and 70s, through all
three Scottish cities, needs revisiting, as a copycat serial killer, dubbed
―Johnny Bible,‖ by the media, has arisen. (According to the author’s
acknowledgements, he based the fictional Bible John case on an actual,
unsolved Scottish case.) Furthermore, renewed attention to the Bible John
case also serves to focus media attention more strongly on the possible
related misdeeds of Rebus’s early mentor, Inspector Lawson Geddes, who
has just committed suicide in his Spanish retirement home.

Eighth in the series ―Black and Blue‖ may be, but it is still written with
unflagging power, wit and energy, crackling with sharp descriptions of
Scotland, its capital, its people, diet, social life and weather. Rankin’s
evocative descriptions of his home town manage to give us its grit, and its
beauty, and are incomparable; but he does very well with Glasgow and
Aberdeen, too. The plot is satisfyingly complex, wide and deep: I’ll give
the voters of the book’s awards no arguments on this one. Although the
fact that Rebus is flitting in and out of three cities, and three cop shops,
gives us an awful lot of characters, particularly cops, milling about. I
generally can’t finish a book at a sitting, who can these days, and I was
occasionally confused among them all.

And just what’s tartan noir, you ask? A bloodthirsty, bloody-minded
business, to be sure, more violent than the average British mystery, but,
thankfully, leavened a bit with that dark Scots humor. Written (duh!) by
Scots. James Ellroy, American author of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, has dubbed
Rankin the progenitor – and king—of the school.

Rankin was born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, and graduated from the
University of Edinburgh. He’s been employed as grape-picker, swineherd,
taxman, hi-fi journalist, and punk musician. His first Rebus novel KNOTS &
CROSSES was published in 1987. His works are now receiving television
treatment. If you love British mysteries, he’s a dead cert. You can’t go
wrong no matter where you start with him, and this book’s as good a
place as any.


								
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