James Thane's Reviews > Fleshmarket Close

Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin
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Dec 15, 2010

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Read in December, 2010

This is another moody, atmospheric tale from Ian Rankin that examines the dark underside of contemporary Scottish society. As much by accident as anything else, Inspector John Rebus becomes involved in the investigation of the murder of a Kurdish immigrant who is knifed to death in a depressing housing complex. The place is a seething cauldron of hate, resentment and racism. Nobody trusts the police; no one wants to cooperate with the investigation, and only Rebus's determined efforts will keep the case moving forward.

Meanwhile, Rebus's sometime partner, Siobhan Clarke, is searching for a missing young woman when two skeletons are discovered buried in the basement of a pub. Inevitably, the two cases will wind up linked together, taking Rebus and Clarke deep into a world of illegal immigration and the contemporary slave trade, and exposing a myriad of ways in which human beings exploit each other.

As always, especially in the more recent Rebus books, the plot is fairly complex. In this case it's perhaps a bit too ambitious, and it seems like Rankin overreaches in the effort to tie two disparate cases together. I assume that this is a way of giving both Rebus and Siobhan something to do while giving them a chance to interact on a regular basis. But at least for a while you feel like you're being jerked back and forth between two totally unrelated stories. The Rebus side of the tale is especially engrossing and timely; the Clarke side feels like it's been grafted on as an afterthought. It's always a treat to watch Rebus at work, but I would have enjoyed the book more if Rankin had simply detailed both Rebus and Siobhan to the immigrant murder case.
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