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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hard boiled
In recent months, word has come that authors of several of the very best police procedural series have decided to put an end to their heroes adventures. John Harvey is apparently retiring Charlie Resnick, Archer Mayor may do the same with Joe Gunther and Colin Dexter killed off Inspector Morse. This leaves something of a void in the genre, particularly at the more...
Published on October 13, 2000 by Orrin C. Judd

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The plot thickens...and thickens and thickens
Let me say at the outset that I am a Rankin fan. Police Detective John Rebus is a rounded human character, and Edinburgh makes a colorful backdrop to his stories, which are generally well plotted. However, "In Black and Blue," Rankin was just a little too ambitious. There are enough plots and subplots for five books, and he isn't always deft at juggling them. I often...
Published on July 21, 2003 by Binx Bolling


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hard boiled, October 13, 2000
In recent months, word has come that authors of several of the very best police procedural series have decided to put an end to their heroes adventures. John Harvey is apparently retiring Charlie Resnick, Archer Mayor may do the same with Joe Gunther and Colin Dexter killed off Inspector Morse. This leaves something of a void in the genre, particularly at the more noirish margin, but luckily, Ian Rankin and Detective John Rebus seem to be just hitting their stride and, with the ranks of the competitors thinned, these tartan noir novels will hopefully gain the audience they richly deserve.
Rankin began the series in 1987 with Knots and Crosses. His creation, John Rebus, a former SAS special op turned Scottish police detective, is driven by Calvinist guilt, fueled by whiskey, cigarettes and pop music and is willing, even eager, to cut corners and push boundaries in his pursuit of a pretty harsh justice. But now, eight books and ten years into the series, Rebus is reaching a crisis point as an overwhelming confluence of events threatens to swamp him. First, he's been transferred to a backwater division in the wake of the fallout from his last case and his first investigation there seems to tie into both the North Sea oil industry and the mobs. Second, an old case where he and his mentor played fast and loose with the rules has been reopened. Third, a copycat killer has started imitating the murder pattern of Bible John (a true life killer) who terrified Scotland in the late 60's. The new killer has been nicknamed Johnny Bible and Rebus is obsessed by both killers. Finally, one of his old partners is assigned to keep an eye on him and starts talking to him about the changes that AA has made in his life and pushing Rebus to reexamine his own.
Rankin somehow manages to keep all these plates spinning in a really superior entry in one of the more underrated series around. The book won a well deserved Golden Dagger award (Best Mystery as awarded by the Crime Writers Association of Britain) and if you like your crime fiction hard boiled, this is a book you should not miss
GRADE: A+
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rankin's finest, October 9, 2000
Ian Rankin is described as the father of tartan noir, and Scotland's answer to James Ellroy. I would disagree with the latter description - Ellroy being a great prose stylist, with an approach, and an ability to plot all of his own. However, Rankin is a good writer, and with Black and Blue he has written a great novel.
This novel probably stands comparison with Ellroy more then some of Rankin's other work. There are two principal reasons for this. Firstly, Rankin brings together fact and fiction, merging them seamlessly into an entertaining whole; secondly, he demonstrates a mastery of running four concurrent labyrinthine plotlines that come together in a gripping conclusion.
The novel focuses on a series of killings by an individual nicknamed, Johnny Bible. These crimes echo those of late 1960s Glasgow where "Bible John" killed three women in a series of unsolved crimes that ended as abruptly as they started. The meshing of fact and fiction is handled adroitly.
The interlinking plots have as their hub, Rankin's regular Inspector John Rebus. Rebus is divorced, hard-drinking, and a compelling presence over the series of novels.
Here, the plots include the Johnny Bible killings, a vicious gangland murder on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and a media programme on miscarriages of justice reviving an elderly case Rebus was involved in as a young detective. Navigation around the plots is not straightforward, but the links between the seemingly disparate strands are made with mastery.
Rankin's prose style is not innovative, but he deftly draws characters, and some of the incidental characters here, e.g. DCI Grogan, a detective in Aberdeen, and Major Weir, a Scot-loving American oil magnate, are deftly sketched in such a manner that you can see their having a life off the page. The central character remains the majestic Rebus. From menace (resolving a problem for a colleague) to mawkish sentimentality (his memories of a murdered prostitute) Rebus is one of the most compelling characters in the genre. He reacts erratically, and because of this seems all the more human. Rankin is to be congratulated on this wonderful creation.
However, these elements are present in most Rebus novels. What is it that prompted the description as "Rankin's finest"? For this Scot the reason is Rankin's engagement with modern Scotland. He looks at the oil industry, social deprivation, and drug culture. Rankin's novels are "state of the nation" books, revealing many facets of society. Sometimes he drops into hectoring pedagogical mode, more often these observations inform the plotting, and the characterisation.
At his best Rankin is as good as anyone in the genre. And this is Rankin at his best.
If you enjoyed this novel try Ian Rankin's Set in Darkness or The Hanging Garden; Denise Mina's Garnethill; or James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia or The Big Nowhere.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Rebus, November 3, 2002
By 
Untouchable (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
Rebus really outdoes himself in this book. He manages to get himself into serious trouble by annoying superior officers in three different cities at the same time...and I don't think he was even trying all that hard. Part of the trouble even goes as far as becoming a suspect in his own investigation, earning Rebus a fellow detective to watch over him to ensure he stays out of mischief - much to his extreme chagrin.
The result of ticking his superiors off in Edinburgh was his transfer to what is acknowledged as the worst police station in the city. It's good to see that nothing has changed and Rebus is prepared to attack his cases with the usual mule-headed stubbornness.
Two cases head Rebus' consciousness in this book. The first case sees him teetering on the brink of obsession over a serial killer who is on the loose around the country. The unusual and intriguing part is that the M.O. and the killer's nickname are very similar to that of a killer who operated 25 years ago, but was never caught. The second case seems to be a more straightforward murder investigation, but this too is proving a difficult one to follow and leads Rebus a merry dance around Scotland.
John Rebus fans will be satisfied with Black and Blue, as everything we've come to love about him is here in spades. He flaunts the rules with abandon in his dogged pursuit of his quarry, he works quite comfortably alone, yet he still enjoys the assistance of Holmes and Clarke. One watershed moment is his passing dalliance with sobriety, as an old partner, Jack Morrow, exerts his reformed alcoholic influence on him.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The plot thickens...and thickens and thickens, July 21, 2003
By 
Binx Bolling "Binx" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
Let me say at the outset that I am a Rankin fan. Police Detective John Rebus is a rounded human character, and Edinburgh makes a colorful backdrop to his stories, which are generally well plotted. However, "In Black and Blue," Rankin was just a little too ambitious. There are enough plots and subplots for five books, and he isn't always deft at juggling them. I often found myself scratching my head and flipping back pages to remember who a particular character was (there are a dozen major police characters alone). This is a major distraction in a mystery novel, which should be read full steam ahead. The plot strands involve gangsters, drug dealers, rogue cops, the oil trade, and two (count them two) serial killers. The denouement of all this is far from satisfying: the strands don't come together as neatly as a reader would have wished.

I'm still high on Rankin, but I wish he had turned this one into two separate novels (perhaps "Black" and "Blue").
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read, March 4, 2000
By 
Reived@hotmail.com (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) - See all my reviews
I'd heard some good things about Rankin, and this book was the first I read. While it's true the numerous plots can be somewhat confusing, they add to the realism; do any of us believe that police detectives only have one case assigned to them at a time? The darkness of Rebus' world, his cyncism and bitterness, combined with his stubborness and tenacity, give us a picture of a complete but flawed man. Rebus is a fully developed character, and for once we're given a portrait of a loose cannon that we can BELIEVE would continue to hold down a job.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Maybe I've just relocated my conscience" - Rebus, February 11, 2008
Taking off from the true case history of a Glasgow killer named Bible John, Rankin spins a complex (but still clear*) pageturner about a copycat murderer, dubbed Johnny Bible by the press and cops, but nicknamed the Upstart by the real Bible John, who is still alive, 30 years older, married, and in business under an assumed identity. Even though we know that Bible John is alive and trailing the Upstart, Rebus does not, although he is obsessed with the old case due to his youthful involvement in the earlier investigation.
Rebus is pulled into the later investigation (in Glasgow and Aberdeen) by the suspicious "suicide" of an oil company employee in Edinburgh which connects to an Aberdeen crime boss and eventually to the Glasgow/Aberdeen murders, old and new. Along the way, bent cops in Aberdeen suspect him of being Johnny Bible. There are hair-raising descriptions of a North Sea oil platform and its operations, as well as the usual "second home" pub meets with gangsters, journalists, suspects, and friends. Jack Morton, Rebus's Glasgow cop connection from Knots and Crosses, returns in this book and his deepening bond with Rebus leads to an unexpected and hopeful turn in Rebus's private life.
*A note on the complexity of this book -- geographically, I had to look back to pin down the cities involved, but I had no trouble remembering the main characters and interwoven plots, even though I took several days to finish the book. The portrait of the returning serial killer and the development of Rebus' character in this book make it one of Rankin's best.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Discovery, February 11, 2003
Some friends gave me this as a Christmas 2002 gift. They knew I liked mysteries/thrillers as I am a close follower of Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Deaver, Ridley Pearson, James Patterson, Robert Crais, and many others. I found this book to be amazing. So much so that I have already read the first four books in the Rebus series and am reading them in sequence. Rankin's detective Rebus is the Scottish version of Connelly's Harry Bosch -- only more extreme and maybe more interesting. Certainly more gritty. And he loves the Rolling Stones! Rankin is a highly intelligent writer and you can see his skills develop from the early books with "Srip Jack" being a turning point of sophistication. I've read that Rankin writes "Tartan Noir." That's a good way to put it. The novels remind me of the best film noir where the cigarette smoke is thick and the booze runs like a river. Being in Scotland also is a real treat, adding a new element of continual interest verus the usual beats of Los Angeles or New York. The layers of intelligence and plot development are lovely. Rankin has an uncanny ability to interweave plot, keep us guesing, and is always surprising us. Keep up the great work Ian. I plan to slow down as I hit the second half of the series as I want to keep Rebus fresh for as long as I can.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top stuff - by any genre standards, May 19, 1999
I came to this book looking for something a little different. Having won several awards, I thought it would be good as a sampler of the crime genre. It is quite splendid. Human characters with the kind of flaws you have to accept in people you know and meet, in a familiar but grim surround, like viewing your own house after a burglary. I have since read several more Rebus novels and enjoyed damn near every page. The sharpness of the dialogue and the bold depictions are instantly memorable.
The only downside is that I enjoyed 'The Hanging Garden' even more!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Rebus Yet!, April 24, 1998
This review is from: Black and Blue (Hardcover)
I have read all the previous books and must admit that this is the best yet. Rankin mixes both his fictional account of "Johnny Bible" and his theories on Bible John ( a real life serial killer who is still at large) seamlessly in this tale involving drug dealing, murder and gangsters in Scotland's three major cities. This is a typical Rebus novel with more twists and red herrings than you can count and yet it maintains feasibility unlike many other novels I could mention. The description of the different people and locations is very accurate and if you want a novel that explores the Scots psyche and attitude to crime look no further
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of all Ian Rankin's Rebus books - riveting reading, January 12, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Black and Blue (Hardcover)
I've read all of Ian Rankin's books since I first saw him speaking at Edinburgh's Book Festival some years ago. He just gets better and better. Black & Blue has a plot that's too complicated to describe here, but once I had started it I just had to keep on reading. Not all the good guys are nice, and not all the bad guys are nasty, and Rebus himself is suffering from even more angst than usual, but he still keeps our sympathy. Most of all,the plotting is superb; it's complicated and rewarding to stick with. (And if you get the chance to hear/see Rankin himself, grab it - he's a nice, entertaining guy!)
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Black and Blue: An Inspector Rebus Mystery (Inspector Rebus Mysteries)
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