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Watchman: A Novel

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  2,426 Ratings  ·  197 Reviews
From #1 international bestseller Ian Rankin, an unlucky spy gets one last chance at redemption.

Miles Flint is a spy who has been making some serious mistakes. His last assignment led to the death of a foreign official in London, and after getting too close to his current subject he wound up in police custody. But something is wrong at the agency that has nothing to do with
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published (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
Oct 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy, thriller
I've enjoyed reading Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus books very much. I'm well in to that series. Watchman was Rankin's 3rd novel, written after the first of his Rebus books. It's quite different from the Rebus books; in fact, it's more in line with early John le Carre than what you expect from Rankin.
Miles Flint (from the intro, Rankin borrowed the name from the In Like Flint movie series starring James Coburn) is a Watchman, working for the British Secret Service. Having issues with his marriage
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
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.
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, mystery, 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 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
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
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
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.
Colette Flaherty
Aug 29, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just couldn't get into it and didn't engage with any of the characters.
Feb 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not his best work. In fact, possibly his worst. 0 of 10 stars.
Wendy Greene
Jan 01, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Confusing, poorly fleshed out characters, perhaps it inspired Tarantino's film, Reservoir Dogs. Rankin certainly has improved immensely since this first novel.
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
Feb 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a stand-alone written in between the first two Rebus books.

Based around the time of the IRA London bombings, the Watchmen are the spies who observe suspects and report back to their superiors. Led by Miles Flint who has bungled yet another operation, and now his bosses want him out of the way. Sent to Belfast to observe
the arrest of two known terrorists, this operation also goes dreadfully wrong, and Flint finds himself on the run with one of them.

A good story but I found it hard to kee
Holly Gravel
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
A- It's an earlier standalone book, no John Rebus. Concept was easy to follow. A "watchman" spy watched people and often worked late/took other's shift to not bother going home. In doing so he came upon a scenario that didn't seem right....and lead to a higher up wanting him killed, so he was sent to Troubled Ireland where he escaped with an IRA terrorist, made it back to London, then exposed the plot against him as well as years of shenanigans that had lead up to it. He and his wife reconnecte ...more
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The hero of this book is a spy whose job is surveillance. A watcher. He is grey man; somebody so ordinary looking that you would overlook him in a crowd. Obviously such a man would be an asset as a watcher but as the hero of a spy thriller - not so much. He is simply boring. His life is boring and therefore the narrative is plodding with large slices of his yawn inducing family life interspersed with meetings with work colleagues who are equally lacklustre. Move along, move along people, there's ...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.
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.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did find it jarring how in the first half of the book, Miles Flint was just a bland guy who then in the second half of the book transforms into quite the action man. A readable book(I could finish it over the weekend) although it didn't ring any bells for me. Mediocre!
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.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, mystery
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.
Barry Bridges
Rankin's attempt at a Le Carre style spy novel. The book picks up speed once the ground work is laid (about half way) and from then on it is quite engrossing. Perseverance was the key to getting there!!
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great spy thriller. What made it really interesting and kept me engaged was the fact that it was all internal politics and intrigue. I listened to it, so I don't think I got some of the nuances so this would be worth actually reading. Definitely glad Rankin has written many books.
Cheka Firefly
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
The writing is good but it was hard to relate to and to care for most of the characters.
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series. However, this story had me scratching my head. It was complicated, hard to follow and a dry.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Too dull to finish.
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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

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