Reviewing Ian Rankin’s Fleshmarket Close

I have no idea how I hadn’t picket up an Ian Rankin novel before but this is the first one I have read. It isn’t the first his very popular Rebus series – in fact it’s number 15 but that was something I did on purpose wanting to see if I could get into the book without knowing any of the past or backstory.

An illegal immigrant is found murdered in an Edinburgh housing scheme. Rebus is drawn into the case, but has other problems: his old police station has closed for business, and his masters want him to retire. But Rebus is stubborn. As he investigates, he must visit an asylum seekers’ detention centre, deal with the sleazy Edinburgh underworld, and maybe even fall in love…

Siobhan meanwhile has problems of her own. A teenager has disappeared and Siobhan must help the family, which means getting close to a convicted rapist. Then there’s the small matter of the two skeletons found buried beneath a cellar floor in Fleshmarket Close. An elaborate stunt – but whose, and for what purpose? And how can it tie to the murder on the housing-scheme known as Knoxland?

It took me a very long time to realise that Fleshmarket Close isn’t set in 2015 because it might as well be. It was just the smoking inside and the reference to CD-ROMS that dated it. Otherwise this is a very timely novel about racism because almost everyone in Edinburgh including the police is incredibly racist. When Kurdish immigrant Stef Yurgii is murdered most people either don’t care or are thrilled, after all it’s not as if he was a human was it? Just an immigrant. (If I sound angry it is because I am because it seems from 2004, when this was first written to now, nothing has changed). The police are called to investigate. At the same time a pair of skeletons have been found, and a young women, Ishbel,  has gone missing.

All three of these crimes are set up at the very beginning of Fleshmarket Close  and very quickly I knew the three of them must be connected but how was another story all together. Rebus and Siobhan star working on it and the story follows them as they slowly piece together exactly what happened to Yurgii, who those skeletons belong to, and where Ishbel had gone.

If I had any criticism of Fleshmarket Close it was that it was so slow. I am used to much shorter crime novels where things seem to happen on every single page. With this everything was far more languid. There was a lot more talking and thinking and it did take me a while to get into the rhythm of the novel. This isn’t to say I wasn’t hooked – I was and I wanted to finish it just to see how everything was connected.

Ian Rankin writes in such a wonderful way and I really did begin to understand why people love Rebus and Siobhan so much. They, like the secondary characters, are so well rounded and believable that it was a pleasure to read their scenes and chapters. They are both clever and methodical and there were hints mentioned at their shared history which made me want to start the series from the beginning.

This isn’t the best crime book I have read but was entertaining, easy to read (writing wise – I never find racism easy to read about), and very difficult to put down. If you haven’t read any Rebus before then I really do recommend it – I don’t know if it is better to start from the beginning but I can say that starting from the middle didn’t seem detrimental.

Also the cover is beautiful isn’t it? It’s what attracted me to the book – the textures are different and I found myself stroking it absent mindedly as I was reading!

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