Including brand new material, this is the complete collection of Rebus short stories from the Sunday Times Number one best seller.
Over the years, Ian Rankin has amassed an incredible portfolio of short stories. Published in crime magazines, composed for events, broadcast on radio, they all share the best qualities of his phenomenally popular Rebus novels.
Brought together for the first time, and including brand-new material, this is the ultimate Rebus short-story collection and a must-have book for crime lovers and for Ian's millions of fans alike. No Rankin aficionado can go without it.
©2014 John Rebus Ltd (P)2014 Orion Publishing Group
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"A satisfying collection..."
Last year, after one of his friends died unexpectedly at a young age, Ian Rankin announced that he'd be taking a year or two off from novel writing to have a bit of a rest. I assume this collection of short stories has been issued to fill the void that many of us Rebus fans would have felt without a new book for the winter. And, since I haven't read any of these before, it filled that void very satisfactorily.
There are 29 stories, ranging in length from a few pages to near-novella, but with most falling into the 20-40 minutes-to-read zone, so perfect bedside table material for late-night reading. There is also an interesting essay at the end where Rankin tells the story of how Rebus came into existence, which gives us some biographical snippets into how Rankin himself became a crime writer.
Normally, when reviewing a short story collection, I find myself commenting on the variable quality of the stories, but I really can't say that with this one. I found each of the stories, short or long, to be pretty much equally good, and while they obviously don't have the complexity or depth of the novels, they show all Rankin's normal talents for plotting and characterisation, and are as well written as the books. In fact, because we know the main characters so well, Rankin doesn't have to spend much time on developing them, allowing him to pack a lot of story into a compact space. A few of them have a Christmas or New Year theme, I guess because they were originally written for newspaper or magazine Christmas specials. And a couple make reference to stories from great Edinburgh writers of the past – Muriel Spark and Arthur Conan Doyle – giving a glimpse into Rankin's own influences.
Each story is entirely consistent with the Rebus we know, but sometimes angled so that we see a new facet of his character, or get a closer look at an old one. They are spread throughout his career, with the first story being the most recently written – a prequel more or less to his latest novel Saints of the Shadow Bible, when Rebus was a new detective learning the ropes – right through to his retirement (which we now know didn't last long). The bulk, however, are set in the earlier period, so there's more of Brian Holmes as his sidekick than of Siobhan Clarke, who only came into the series mid-way through. I found this particularly pleasurable since it's a long time since I've read any of the older books and I enjoyed the trip down memory lane with a younger Rebus. I was intrigued to realise that, although I tend to think back on the early Rebus as one of the drunken mavericks of his day who has since mellowed with age, in fact in comparison to a lot of today's detectives he was actually both functional and professional throughout – clearly it's the genre that's shifted, rather than Rebus...or Rankin. I also felt there was more than a touch of William McIlvanney in the earlier stories, but that that influence seemed to fade as they went on, presumably as Rankin developed into his own equally strong style.
The stories include all kinds of mysteries, from shop-lifting to murder, and the occasional one is really more an observation of a particular aspect of Edinburgh life than a crime story. In total, they left me in no doubt that Rankin is just as much a master of the short story as the novel. I found this a completely satisfying collection, and one that I'm sure to dip in and out of many times again.
* * * * * * * *
Just for fun I tried the newish Whispersync feature for Kindle with this one – that is, that if you buy the Kindle book, you can add the Audible version at a reduced cost (or for free if, like me, you have a bunch of Audible credits you haven't yet used). Technically, it didn't really sync on the Kindle Fire which was a disappointment – it meant that when switching from reading to listening I was always having to find my place. Not too much of a problem with short stories, but could be tedious in a full-length novel.
However, this particular Audible book is superbly narrated by James Macpherson who, you may remember, took over as the lead in Taggart after Mark McManus died. Not only is he an excellent narrator, but his voice and accent are ideally suited for the character of Rebus and as a skilled actor he also creates different personas for all the other many characters who appear in the stories. I thought it was a first rate recording, and thoroughly enjoyed splitting the book between reading and listening. It's something I would do again – especially for short stories. A good narration can definitely add something to the original. On the audiobook version, too, the essay Rankin on Rebus is narrated by Ian Rankin himself, which made it a little bit extra-special (especially since he has a lovely voice too). I'd happily recommend the book, the audiobook or both to all Rebus fans out there, or even perhaps as an introduction for new readers to the grand old man of Tartan Noir.
"Enjoyable extra glimpses of Rebus"
DI John Rebus is one of the greatest inventions of recent crime novels. The complexities of his character and the seedier side of Edinburgh he inhabits are beautifully explored in Rankin's acclaimed novels. Here we get just glimpses because of the limitations of the short-story, but they are both intriguing and satisfying. Those who don't know Rebus should find this collection an excellent introduction that would lead nicely to the novels. Continuity for listeners who already know Rebus is much helped by using the same narrator, James Macpherson. We get solid stories across Rebus's career, right back to his early days as a latter-day Saint of the Shadow Bible, having to prove himself to the other "saints." Although the stories are necessarily slight compared to the novels, some being written as Christmas "stocking-fillers," they help complete our appreciation of Ian Rankin's masterly creation. Highly recommended (and missing 5 stars solely because the novels are even better!)
"Enjoyable easy listening"
I had, being a Rebus fan, read many of these stories some years ago in book form. However, that didn't really take away from the enjoyment of having them read to me by James Macpherson, whose wonderful narration adds a whole new dimension to the printed book.
Naturally the short stories lack the complexity of the novels, but I think they stand up well in their own right. Some are of course better than others, but they all add glimpses to the fascinating character that is John Rebus and the interesting city that is Edinburgh.
"Rebus doesn't disappoint"
Great little stories. very varied. well read. listen to them over and over at bedtime.
"Rankin at his best"
Just perfect for short listening episodes, James McPherson captures Rebus perfectly. This is Rebus at his sarcastic, humorous and clever best. I just loved it and cannot wait for another.
Loved all the stories.
All of it.
No it was just perfect for dipping into whilst driving, exercising, ironing (ugh) , online stuff, knitting and in fact any times at all.
Please ask Ian Rankin for more.
18 hours of Rebus. The man we love for his quirks and eccentricities and determination to play by his own rules. A literary hero you wouldn't really want to swap places with (except the bacon rolls and papers on a Sunday, fingers of single malt, the vinyl collection, the fingers firmly up at the establishment). Here we have a christmas stocking filler, little insights into what makes the man. Great stuff, and really well read. I think James Macpherson is the best narrator I have heard for the Rebus catalogue.
Fantastically gripping stories, kept me up longer than I would have for a few nights. The insight into the authors thoughts and life was really interesting too!
This book is very entertaining and the short stories keep you hooked and it never gets boring.
Any of the other rebus books because they ashould Ranking is consistent in his writing.
I like the fact they had Scots performing.
I love the books featuring John Rebus and have read them all, so listening to new (to me) though short, stories was an absolute joy. The narrator was wonderfully nuanced with his voice characterisations, and got the emotional tones just right.
"The Beat Does Go On..."
I might not be the best person to review this, as I have always preferred full novels.
The Beat Goes On, does fill in a few gaps.
I love Rankin's work and Rebus.
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