Ian Rankin and Rebus for November's Reading group

The bad-tempered but incredibly popular Edinburgh detective is the subject of this month’s investigation, starting with the first of his cases, Knots and Crosses

This November sees the release of the 20th Inspector Rebus novel, Even Dogs in the Wild. Which seems like an excellent excuse for the Reading group to have a look back at the gruff Edinburgh detective’s long career – and indeed to see what he’s been up to since he retired.

Ian Rankin has been writing Rebus novels since 1987. He was a formative influence on the Tartan noir genre, and he has been estimated to account for a mighty 10% of all British crime fiction sales. He also introduced the world to the valuable concept of FYTP. But the most impressive thing about the Rebus books is their quality. They are often truly bracing reading experiences: brutal, ugly and upsetting. But they are also fascinating, warm studies both of the complex, flawed and curiously appealing lead man John Rebus, and of that other great character, the city of Edinburgh.

I propose that we start the exploration of this long-running series right at the beginning, like we did a few months ago when we had the joy of looking at Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

As in Pratchett month, a few Rebus aficionados may worry that this first book is not the most representative. For a start – and shockingly – Rebus here is more into jazz than 60s standards. But as with The Colour of Magic, I’d argue that if Knots and Crosses is the worst that Rankin can do, we’re onto a good thing. This is still a tense, intriguing novel and a fine introduction to John Rebus’s complex psychology, as well as to Edinburgh’s stews of corruption.

More of both of those next week. In the meantime, another virtue of Knots and Crosses is that it’s short and snappy. There will be time enough to devour another investigation. Since there are 20 to decide between, and since I’m yet to read one I haven’t enjoyed, I’m unable to choose. But that’s all to the good as it means we can have a vote. Name your favourite Rebus in the comments below; I’ll tot up the scores at the end of the week, and we’ll read the one with the most nominations after Knots And Crosses.

Meanwhile, while we’re looking ahead, I’m very pleased to announce that Ian Rankin himself will be joining us for a live webchat at around about 1pm (GMT) on 23 November, so notch that in your diary.

Finally, to get the ball rolling, we also have five advance copies of Even Dogs in the Wild to give away to the first readers in the UK to post: “I want a copy please” – along with a nice, constructive comment relevant to its author – in the comments section below.

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the first to comment, don’t forget to email Laura Kemp with your address (laura.kemp@theguardian.com), as we can’t track you down ourselves. Be nice to her, too.


Sam Jordison

The GuardianTramp

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