Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: The Black Book


The Black Book is the fourth novel in Ian Rankin's Edinburgh-based series featuring hard-bitten police detective John Rebus. This one finds Rebus poking into a five-year old mystery involving an unidentified body burned up in a hotel fire.

The series really hits its stride in this book. The first one, Knots and Crosses, is a good story in itself, but the mystery is too personal to Rebus to be a proper kick off for a series – it's a sprint, not the start of a marathon. Hide and Seek is better, but still a little thin. The third one, Tooth and Nail, finds Rebus seconded to Scotland Yard to find a screamingly improbable serial killer. It has the markings of an early manuscript dusted off to appease an eager publisher.

But The Black Book has none of these flaws. Rebus has filled out as a character, as has his supporting cast, and there are about 50 more pages, which gives Rankin the space to develop the main and side stories. Edinburgh's history and environs shape the story and provide plenty of color.

Completists should start the series at the beginning, but for those just looking for a great mystery, jump right in with The Black Book.


If you would ike your review of this or any of Rankin's other books listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it. 


This counts as one of my books for the TBR challenges I am doing this year.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation - I am going to add it my reading list. I can't read nearly as fast as you but I love it still!

  2. MPW: This was very entertaining. I am going to pass it on to my sister, Mom, & Dad. We swap paperbacks and I know they will like it.

    We try to remember to write our initials in the back, so that the books don't return to us. :)

  3. Hi Gilion,

    I love Ian Rankin's hard hitting style of writing, however I haven't read anything by him for a while now, certainly not since I have been blogging, so unfortunately I don't have any links to leave, or I would.

    In fact, it would probably be almost as well if I went back and started the series from scratch, so that I can follow the development of the character 'Rebus' in a logical way.

    There was a television drama series based on the books, which I did watch avidly, however, as in many cases, I suspect that this won't have followed the books too closely, so won't spoil my reading of them.

    Thanks for the recommmendation.


  4. Yvonne: I typically read mystery series in order, and I've enjoyed reading the Rebus series that way. But the more of them I read, the more I wonder if they need to be read in order.

    I didn't watch the tv show you linked to. I trued to watch the version with John Hannah, but couldn't understand the accents! It didn't have subtitles, so I had to switch to the books. I have such a crush on John Hannah that I don't think I could watch the other show.

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