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Watchman

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3.52  ·  Rating details ·  2,314 Ratings  ·  185 Reviews
Bombs are exploding in the streets of London, but life seems to have planted more subtle booby-traps for Miles Flint. Miles is a spy. His job is to watch and to listen, then to report back to his superiors, nothing more. The job, affording glimpses into the most private lives of his victims, appeals to Miles. He doesn't lust after promotion, and he doesn't want action. He ...more
Hardcover, Revised Edition, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Orion (first published 1988)
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Mark Rice
Years after writing this novel and The Flood, Ian Rankin created the Rebus books and became the UK's biggest-selling crime writer. In Scotland, he has become a cultural icon. I haven't read any of the Rebus novels, and so can't comment on them (other than saying the TV versions were excellent). I did read and enjoy The Flood last year; its settings and characters were vivid, authentic and inspired. Not so with Watchman, which features a clichéd plot involving secret agents, black budgets, vague ...more
Tony
As a fan of both crime fiction and Scottish fiction, I've always been meaning to give Ian Rankin another go. Years ago, I read his first Rebus book, Knots and Crosses, didn't really care for it, and never returned to him. This republication of his 1988 espionage novel (his second book) caught my eye, so I thought I'd try him again. The story revolves around Miles Flint, a blandly unmemorable mid-level surveillance expert (aka "Watchman") for MI5 (Britain's rough equivalent to the FBI).

When the s
...more
Andrew
Feb 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting early book written by Ian Rankin that he was planning during his honeymoon! At first moving along quite gently and you are trying to work out who is behind things and why, but when it moves to Northern Ireland and Ireland it really takes off, grabs you by the threat and doesn't let you go until the end. Also one or two good links in the book to the Rebus series. Very glad I read it, and I think he would write some more espionage books.
Trilby
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, england, spy
This book surprised me; it's very, very well done, both by the writer and the reader. Rankin wrote it in 1988, and this audio version begins with Rankin describing how he wrote it as a newlywed--fast and obsessively. He notes how the world has changed since that time. For example, spies had no portable electronic devices...no mobile phones, no laptops. This makes spying easier in some ways, harder in others.
The title alludes to the main character's job as "watcher" for MI5. He prides himself on
...more
Mike Gabor
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bombs are exploding in the streets of London, but life seems to have planted more subtle booby-traps for Miles Flint. Miles is a spy. His job is to watch and to listen, then to report back to his superiors, nothing more. The job, affording glimpses into the most private lives of his victims, appeals to Miles. He doesn't lust after promotion, and he doesn't want action. He wants, just for once, not to botch a case. Having lost one suspect - with horrific consequences - Miles becomes too involved ...more
Angus Mcfarlane
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, reviewed
Rankin without Rebus, his second novel as he tried to get established after the initial, somewhat disjointed detective effort. This one is a spy story, set in London, mostly, in the 80s, so it was still analog espionage - spooks without the flashy set changes and a Harry more connected to the Peers of the realm. At stake is the security of London as the IRA took its war offshore. It's easy to forget that the modern day terror, largely ascribed to radical Islam, is relatively new, and that simila ...more
Judy
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ian Rankin's second book, published in 1988 when he was fresh out of university and testing the direction his writing would take. This edition includes his introduction written in 2003 after he had re-read the book. He seems fairly pleased with it and offers some personal background to the writing of it, which I found interesting.

I enjoyed this spy story. There is a brooding, unsettled atmosphere in London and Ireland at the time of the IRA bombing campaign. The main character is Miles Flint, a
...more
Sharon
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I am truly a Rankin fan I wanted to read this book. Despite finding the numerous characters a bit hard to follow in the beginning and being a bit frustrsted by this, in true Ian Rankin style everyone finally took their places as the scene was set and the action began. I liked how all the questions were answered leaving no character dangling. Quite fond of Miles and liked that the writer made all the players real from Sheila, Stevens to Collins...I even felt I understood various motivations an ...more
Ron Smith
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining, fast-paced novel by the man behind Rebus. Even though it's pre-wireless and from the Cold War/IRA bombing era, The Watchman is not as dated as I feared it might be. That's what happens when you write a suspense novel focused on people. Even spies and cops are humans, as Rankin has so deftly demonstrated these many years.
Bookmarks Magazine

Before he became known for his Inspector Rebus series, Ian Rankin was a newly married writer trying his hand at spy novels. Watchman reveals a master at the start of his game. Inspired by John le Carr

Amanda Patterson
Interesting novel - No Rebus. Still well worth reading.
Deborah Mitton
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The trouble with being an avid reader for 50+ years you forget some of the earlier works you read. This was an excellent read at the time.
Larry
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's 1988 and London suffering a rash of bombings by the IRA. Miles Flint is an "invisible" man kind of British spy. He observes the actors and reports back to HQ. But when he decides to stick his nose in a colleague's surveillance, things go off the rails and Miles begins to smell a rat. Looking into the activities of his fellow-spies is frowned upon and so Miles' superiors send him off to Northern Ireland, supposedly to witness an arrest of an IRA cell. But their motives are much darker and of ...more
Colin Rodgers
I read this book knowing it is one of Ian Rankin's earlier works, and not concerned with Detective John Rebus who I consider a masterful creation in crime fiction.
This book is an interesting step in the career of Ian Rankin for me, and if it isn't as good as his contemporary work, no matter; everyone has to start somewhere.
Els
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a spy story for a while. Enjoyed it enough to want to find another Rebus book to read but couldn't get a clear picture of Rebus' character. I know there's a TV series, so maybe the character builds in subsequent books? That's why I'll try to read another.
Ruth
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
Long time since I'd read one of Rankin's books and this one certainly wouldn't make me go racing out to get another.
Very slow paced and beetles don't interest me at all. Didn't see the point of these and certainly didn't add to the story.
Rebecca
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
The main problem this has is its boring and you have no reason to care about the mystery. It's a shame because there were two bits (one in Ireland, one in Edinburgh) that were refreshingly interesting, but it soon turned back to the dull plot and the ending was pretty bad.
Mark
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Slow start and too much coincidence. A very early Rankin and it shows!
Jon
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel that holds up well against time. After a shadowy start, the book finds its groove and takes the reader across multiple countries, conflicts, conspiracies and action.
Joseph Holt
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow

Not a dot out of place, not a line over written , just a pitch perfect spy novel. Read it now.
Nancy Jo Jackson
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining

Held my interest from start to finish. The story evolved in a believable manner. I was confused about the exact nature of Sheila's affair, did not really matter.
Nancy
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Miles Flint is a spy but he's one who watches suspects and stays out of the action. All that changes when he is sent to Belfast. The set up is a bit slow but Ian Rankin delivers in the end.
Bonnie
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5
Ron
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-k, spy-fiction, thriller
Early non-Rebus offbeat spy novel by Rankin. The pace of the plot rates a 4 out of 5 but this is a case of a few good scenes in search of a story. Aside from some moral equivalency (the "we're as bad as the IRA" nonsense) the book provides some flavour of that time (1988).

If it's your first Ian Rankin book then I suggest you put it down and read a few Rebus novels first instead. Then you can approach the non-Rebus books with some perspective.
Guy
Jan 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tussendoor nog de tijd gevonden om Watchman (1988) van Ian Rankin te lezen. Het boek was meer dan vijftien jaar moeilijk te vinden (verkopers die beschikten over een origineel exemplaar deden naar verluid goede zaken op eBay), maar werd een paar jaar geleden opnieuw uitgebracht. Dat Rankin intussen zowat de bestverkopende detectiveschrijver van de UK is zal er ook wel voor iets tussenzitten. Hij schreef deze spionagethriller tussen zijn eerste twee Rebus-romans, en het is dan ook duidelijk dat h ...more
Anirudh Parthasarathy
Watchman is a novel written by the British crime novelist, Ian Rankin, famous for authoring the John Rebus series. This is his third novel, released in 1989. The book does not feature Ian Rankin's most famous character John Rebus but a similar character named Miles Flint. This novel is a stand alone as of now (and presumably, will remain one).



Miles Flint is a spy, working for the MI5. The story takes place in London (as far as I know, this is one of the two plots of Ian Rankin which takes place
...more
Sundarraj Kaushik
Another of Ian Rankin classic. Not Rebus this time. The book is based on the exploits of an unheroic hero, Miles Flint, who works in the Secret Service. Miles has been a passive observer for most of his life. Now faced with a crumbling marriage he spends as much time as possible watching. In the process he bungles when watching an Arab and this leads to the killing of an Israeli middleman by the Arab. The books is based around the time IRA was active in England and had launched several bomb atta ...more
Stephen
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered an earlier Ian Rankin book 'Watchman ' ,that I had not read. His earlier works seem to have a touch of John LeCarre in them....not that that's bad ! 'Watchman ' is a nuanced English mystery filled with 'moles' operating within the Intelligence community. In the eighties, when this was written, England was not only interested in international intrigue but also terror attacks by the IRA.
Miles Flint finds himself immersed in this mixed intrigue, when an Israeli is murdered on his watc
...more
Kirstin
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what a fantastic read ! I used to love Ian Rankin's Rebus series but in recent years have gone off him a bit but have to say after this excellent spy thriller (not a Rebus) I am firmly back on the wagon . ''Watchman'' is one of his very early novels when he was struggling to make it as a writer but to me it was a very good fast paced spy thriller set in London in the mid 80s when the IRA was bombing London a lot. It was well researched and had a very true feel to it, mainly I guess because ...more
tiddle
Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book of Ian Rankin's earlier works (his second book?) that I read. It has the structure, potential and quiet spy shadows of John le Carré, though it falls short unfortunately. In the foreword, Rankin admits to some of its shortcoming on his own re-reading of its novel years later. A number of areas and plots feel half-baked, including character and plot development. There could have been so much more to it, in terms of more detailed looks and descriptions; instead, the author s ...more
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33031
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
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