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Knots and Crosses (Inspector Rebus #1)

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  23,003 Ratings  ·  1,038 Reviews
'A gripping and sinister tale... The plot is complicated as is the author's exploration into the psychology of guilt, revenge and fear'

Independent 'Tough and authentic-sounding thriller... unlikely to be endorsed by the Scottish Tourist Board, but highly recommended to anyone weary of the tartan'

Literary Review Once John Rebus was a Para, served in the elite SAS. Now he'

Hardcover, 182 pages
Published August 4th 1987 by Doubleday (first published 1987)
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Gemma Tombs Absolutely. I'm about to start re-reading again (for the fifth or sixth time). Although the individual mysteries technically stand alone, there are…moreAbsolutely. I'm about to start re-reading again (for the fifth or sixth time). Although the individual mysteries technically stand alone, there are several key players in the Edinburgh 'crime world' whose presence becomes increasingly threatening throughout the series. You won't really get a sense of the Rebus world unless you read them in order, at least the first few and the last few. The ones in the middle, it probably doesn't matter as much.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dan Schwent
Dec 29, 2014 Dan Schwent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Girls are being kidnapped and murdered around Edinburgh and John Rebus is on the case. But what, if anything, do the disappearances have to do with bizarre letters Rebus has been getting in the post?

The mother-in-law of the owner of my favorite used bookstore has been on my ass for years to give the Inspector Rebus books a shot. When this one turned up during one of my semi-weekly visits, I decided it was time.

This slim volume packs quite a punch. As the first book in a mystery series, it has a
Knots and Crosses: John Rebus and the Book of Job

“Job, actually. I read it once a long time ago. It seems more frightening now though. The man who begins to doubt, who shouts out against his God, looking for a response, and who gets one. ‘God gave the world to the wicked,’ he says at one point, and ‘Why should I bother?’ at another.”

“It sounds interesting. But he goes on bothering?”

“Yes, that’s the incredible thing.”

Conversation between Detective Sergeant John Rebus and Detective Inspector Gil
I had low expectations going into this. Being a big fan of Scottish lit, I've always kept Rankin at arms length, thinking that he'd be too pulpy and pop culturey to be worth reading. I'm comfortable enough to own my snobbery.

Lately, though, I've felt Rankin's pull, especially since Henning Mankell's Wallander books reignited my interest in crime fiction. I have a thing for those damaged, brooding, middle aged, drink-too-much detectives, whose world view is so beaten and jaded by what they've se
Tea Jovanović
Legendarni škotski autor krimića čije su knjige doživele sjajne ekranizacije a njegov Rebus proslavio ga je širom sveta... Samo ga kod nas publika ignoriše iako smo teškom mukom obezbedili prava za njegove knjige i objavili čak 4 naslova iz serijala o rebusu...
Lewis Weinstein
Many detective stories start out with a bang. Something dramatic happens. "Knots and Crosses," Rankin's first Rebus novel, and maybe his first novel altogether, is not that way. After 50+ pages, still not much had happened.

Most detective novels alternate scenes of tension and scenes of relief. Not this one. When the tension finally starts to build, it continues on an unrelenting screaming frightening path to the end of the story.

I guess you can tell I enjoyed the read. That's all I'm going to sa
Aug 25, 2012 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-as-night
Soft-boiled crime fiction? Hard-boiled light? Lightly fried with a twist of tarragon?

As the debut of Ian Rankin's Rebus this is a fine book filled with promise.

Rebus is a drunk divorcee formerly of the SAS and now a DS in the Edinburgh police force. There's somebody abducting and killing children and there's no pattern that anyone can see. So far, so cliche. Where Rankin differs from all those other generic modern police procedurals that are oh so popular with the masses is that he doesn't seem
Oct 15, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: detective fiction fans
Recommended to Emily by: npr
Shelves: own
I will admit to wanting to read this book in part because I heard the author on NPR about a year ago and he is Scottish and I have a big weakness for Scottish accents. But! In my defense, I was actually intrigued by what he said (and not just how he said it!).

Having finally read the book, I have to say, it was a great read. I realized about a third of the way through that it has been a long time since I've read both an apt and original metaphor and this was chock full of them. Being his first n
Andrew Smith
Nov 25, 2014 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first sampled the Rebus series at book 12 (The Falls) and have subsequently read books 8 to 19 (Rankin’s latest) in random order. This hasn’t been a problem, there is a background thread that runs through the series – an army career, a failed marriage and a daughter – but it’s really just background noise to whatever is happening in the current book. This time I decided to go back to the start, to book 1.

The first thing that struck me was how different the style is. The later stories resound
Apr 03, 2008 Dfordoom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Knots and Crosses is the first of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels, although in this one he’s still Detective-Sergeant Rebus. It’s almost impossible because of the way the plot is structured to say anything meaningful about the story without the rusk of giving away any spoilers. All I’ll say is that Rebus is an ex-army guy now a cop who finds himself involved in the investigation of the kidnapping/murders of several girls in Edinburgh. It’s one of those crime novels that focuses in the detect ...more
An Odd1
Jan 25, 2013 An Odd1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, fan
"Knots and Crosses" are scraps of string and broken matchsticks in anonymous crank messages to Edinburgh detective John Rebus during a serial kidnapping of girls around 12, his daughter's age. Or is it a tic-tac-toe game? Constantly overcome by memories of elite corps army training, he smokes, drinks, and sleeps around like a 70s divorced lonely dad, until his brother finally hypnotizes him to reveal his bitter past hiding the murderer.

Either I read this before or the suspense builds with our g
Detective Sergeant John Rebus joined the Edinburgh police force 15 years ago, after leaving the special forces unit of the British Army (SAS). Rebus is a solid cop, respected (if not quite liked) by his superiors. As the story unfolds we learn that Rebus's brutal SAS training left him profoundly troubled, so that he drinks too much, has a failed marriage behind him, and has a somewhat distant relationship with his young teenage daughter Samantha.

When a serial killer starts murdering young girls
I was very excited to read this. I'd been meaning to read Ian Rankin and finding myself in a used bookshop in Inverness finally bought the first two books of the series [I think the shopkeeper was very excited that I wanted to read their own Scottish wonder - he won a main prize last year at the Edinburgh book festival.:]
However found it a little disappointing - straightforward plot [that sounds ridiculous perhaps - because it is requisitely twisty - but in a way that if you've read more than on
Stephanie Swint
This could have been so much more. The concept or story is fantastic. I wanted to like it. I started out liking it. Unfortunately, as the story went on I noticed where it should have been amazing and wasn’t. ‘Knots and Crosses’ wasn’t bad, but it fell far short of its potential. This means it will probably be made into a much better movie. There is a solid mystery set in Edinburgh here. It has some true twists and interesting characters. Who doesn’t like a main character whose father and brother ...more
Apr 18, 2015 Alondra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery/Thriller Readers
Recommended to Alondra by: Bill
3.5 Stars

What a great read. I have a new series to read.

Inspector Rebus is my kind of guy, quite complex, quite no-nonsense with a little danger and mischievousness. I loved the twists and turns and getting much of his background beforehand; but I know there will be much more as I delve into the series.

Thank you, Bill for your recommendation!
Apr 13, 2015 Clarice rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
The first problem with this book is the unlikable main character. Rebus is supposed to be suffering from PTSD because of trauma he experienced during his Special Services training. That's right. He was so damaged during TRAINING that he never actually served in Special Services, but he gets all kinds of respect from his fellow cops because of his Special Services background - which is pretty weird since the symptoms of his PTSD makes him a pretty lousy cop. And, oh yeah, another symptom is that ...more
I have been reading a lot non-fiction lately; my plan was to devote the entire November to non-fiction. However I got a little run down and found myself in need of some mindless fiction. I picked up Knots and Crosses, the first book in the Inspector Rebus by Ian Rankin. While writing my review of Dexter is Dead, I felt the need to find a new crime series to read through, but I have particular taste; I want something with an interesting protagonist and an overarching story arc. I have heard some ...more
Lee Broderick
I was a little disappointed by this book. Ian Rankin's Rebus novels have been widely praised as literary detective fiction. In the introduction to my edition he acknowledges some surprise at this and I agree with him. This was an uncomplicated, character-driven noir with a protagonist that I couldn't care less about.

Perhaps the author's writing improves with later books but here I felt like I was being kept very much at arms length from the narrative. When the plot's so simple (in one of the ear
Mark Rubinstein
Jul 13, 2014 Mark Rubinstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knots and Crosses is the first of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels. Despite some contrivances and convenient plot devices, it's a fine novel. Rebus is a fascinating character and one gets the feeling in reading this novel (published in 1987) that the author probably was planning a series based on this character.

I understand full well that this series is far more than the usual group police procedural books. It has much more going for it, namely, the complex character of John Rebus. The writi
Tom Mathews
This is an excellent beginning to the John Rebus series. I look forward to reading more of them.
Cameron Wiggins
May 09, 2015 Cameron Wiggins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love United Kingdom thrillers, especially Irish thrillers, but this was my first thriller set in Scotland, Edinburg, to be precise. There are NO SPOILERS HERE. This is the first book in the John Rebus police procedural series, and Rankin did not disappoint. Rankin has put forth a first-rate police chase story that is hard to put aside, yet often leaves the reader wondering why he or she likes the book. It can be as karst and gloomy as the Edinburg weather, yet Rankin’s story is so gripping.
Richard Wright
Dec 18, 2012 Richard Wright rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I've been wanting to get round to Rebus for more than a decade. All the more disappointing then that this opening entry in the series is so pedestrian. For a start, Rebus himself is a stock collage of character defects that have been better used in better books. Choice of music, reliance on booze, dogged persistence... the redeeming feature, of the character rather than the man, is how uninspired a police officer he is at this stage. It was refreshing, to me at least, to encounter so unimpressiv ...more
Nov 10, 2009 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rankin, Ian. KNOTS AND CROSSES. (1987). *****. Rankin is one of the best mystery writers writing today, and this is one of his earlier books that provides more background on his series character, Inspector John Rebus. Rebus is going through a crisis. He is divorced from his wife. He doesn’t get to see his daughter, Samantha, very much – at least not as much as he would like. His police work is getting to him. His past in the SAS keeps coming back to him in chronic outbreaks of mental turmoil. He ...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Oct 30, 2011 Kurt Reichenbaugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd read Ian Rankin's Black and Blue some years ago and barely remember it, except that I wasn't so blown away by it that I had to find more. This book was given to me as a freebie and after it sat on a shelf for a couple years I decided to give it a try.

This is the first in the Inspector Rebus series and probably the best place to start with the John Rebus character. He's the textbook flawed character: demon-haunted, drinks too much, divorced, the works. A killer is lurking the streets of Edin
Jane Stewart
Jul 09, 2012 Jane Stewart rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
Did not finish. Cluttered word usage and I wasn’t drawn to the main character.

I read the first 36% and then the last two chapters. This was the author’s first book. He used the word “had” so often I was cringing. It kept taking me out of the story. It’s cluttered writing. The main character is police detective John Rebus. There are 16 or more books in the series. This book is about a serial killer who kidnaps and strangles young girls. The genre appears to be crime mystery.

As John walks home at
It's great fun to read the inaugural adventure of Edinburgh's dubiously venerable copper John Rebus. In terms of a good whodunit, this was a bit over the top- secret paramilitary ops, repressed memory, little girls vanishing in the thick, damp Scottish air, sweaty hook-ups and always, always too many cigarettes and whisky chasers. But it was good to have a context for Rebus, a beginning that shed more light on his past.

This was published the year I graduated from high school, so the technology,
Charlotte (Buried in Books)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 30, 2010 Vanessa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
This book is the first of Rankin's series on Inspector Rebus (although he's still a detective sergeant in this outing.) The good news is that if you end up liking this book, you have 16 more to follow up with.

The story involves Rebus, along with most of the available staff, placed on special assignment to investigate the abduction and strangling of young girls in Edinburgh. Rebus is recently divorced, misses his own young daughter and is still recovering from a top-secret training exercise from
Mar 23, 2009 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was OK. Not great but I've read much worse too. I think my beef with it is that it was written over 20 years ago and seems dated. (Not obviously dated, like no one has a cell phone) but the plot devices seem dated. Our protagonist has a big blank spot in his memory about his time spent in the SAS and has never given it much thought. (Huh?) A serial killer is sending him clues in the mail, which he also doesn't give much thought too, brushing it off as a crank. (Really??) Then the killer start ...more
Paul Darcy
Jan 09, 2012 Paul Darcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Well, this is definitely a departure in my reading patterns. This novel, Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin, is my first dive into the genre of pure detective fiction. And what an exhilarating first plunge - like a swan dive into an empty pool, but in a very good way.

This is the first novel in the long and well known (to those into detective fiction that is) Rebus series. Actually touted on the cover as “Rankin and Rebus” so people like myself will know what to look for on the bookstore shelf. Go
Jan 11, 2010 Nikki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime, for-class
I read a couple of Ian Rankin's books a while ago, probably three or four years ago now. This one hadn't faded entirely out of memory, so I didn't find anything too surprising about it. Ian Rankin's own observations about it, in the introduction, about how obviously it's a first novel and how inexperienced he was, are true. It shows sometimes, not that I think it's necessarily bad writing -- just, Ian Rankin is still finding his feet in this book. I might actually have enjoyed it more if I hadn' ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin 1 10 Mar 22, 2015 09:48PM  
2016 Reading Chal...: 1987 - Knots & Crosses 1 23 Jan 14, 2015 05:48PM  
English Mysteries...: February 2014 - Knots and Crosses 38 116 Feb 25, 2014 04:35PM  
Rebus 16 147 Jan 12, 2014 02:37PM  
Rachel & Rachel R...: Knots and Crosses 2 13 Apr 25, 2012 06:19AM  
  • Cold Is The Grave (Inspector Banks, #11)
  • Flesh House (Logan McRae, #4)
  • Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse, #1)
  • The Wire In The Blood (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan, #2)
  • A Killing Kindness (Dalziel & Pascoe, #6)
  • Lonely Hearts (Charlie Resnick, #1)
  • Garnethill (Garnethill #1)
  • A Touch Of Frost (Inspector Frost, #2)
AKA Jack Harvey.

Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987; the Rebus books are now translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents.

Ian Rankin has been elected a
More about Ian Rankin...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Rebus (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • Hide and Seek (Inspector Rebus, #2)
  • Tooth and Nail (Inspector Rebus, #3)
  • Strip Jack (Inspector Rebus, #4)
  • The Black Book (Inspector Rebus, #5)
  • Mortal Causes (Inspector Rebus, #6)
  • Let It Bleed (Inspector Rebus, #7)
  • Black and Blue (Inspector Rebus, #8)
  • The Hanging Garden (Inspector Rebus, #9)
  • Dead Souls (Inspector Rebus, #10)
  • Set in Darkness (Inspector Rebus, #11)

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