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Watchman: A Novel Hardcover – December 11, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Rankin's Inspector Rebus series (The Naming of the Dead, etc.) will welcome the U.S. publication of his second novel, a stand-alone spy thriller from 1988 that contains Rebus-like elements. Miles Flint has been a successful middle manager in the shadowy ranks of British intelligence until recent mistakes, including a botched surveillance of an Arab assassin, put his career and reputation in jeopardy. Suspecting that the killer evaded him because of a tip from one of his own, Miles launches his own mole hunt, casting himself in a role that's uncomfortably active for him—especially as his search leads back to his wife, Sheila. And Miles's doings seemingly strike a nerve within the organization, getting him dispatched on a perilous IRA bombing-related mission. Rankin creates plausible and fascinating characters in a manner that seems effortless (as in Miles's tic of comparing people to different kinds of beetles). While the elements of the denouement will strike some as gimmicky, it's clear that if Rankin had devoted his gifts to spy fiction rather than mysteries, he would still have been a hit.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From 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 Carré and Graham Greene, Rankins espionage novel is strong on enthusiasm, timing, and plot. Critics attribute its imprecise dialogue and characterizations to an inexperienced, albeit talented, writer. "The coolly analytical Flint was ditched after his first assignment. Now was that fair?" asks The New York Times Book Review, reflecting general sentiment that Watchman is pretty good, just not as good as the Rebus series. "Maybe not, if you happen to like dull but honorable Graham Greene-like spies who find themselves struggling to maintain their equilibrium in a society imploding from violent civil unrest."
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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of frustrations the characters were experiencing, which seems to me to be an indication of
verisimilitude concerning the murky world of espisonage. Even the savviest players aren't
really sure they have all the facts, nor even sure they're available at whatever cost. The
writer conveys all this with his usual deft skill.
I think I would classify this as a "mature" spy novel, because there are fewer big, obvious
moments and more unexpected, smaller moments that accumulate to a serious degree and cause
enormous and frustrating confusion. If you're comfortable with that and sit easy to the
realities of paradox and terminal uncertainty, this is for you.
One can hope Rankin will continue to take his craft further afield from the cop stuff and
apply his many talents in ever-new directions. How about a statecraft novel, or a university
scandal, or a UK mafia story?
Thanks, Mr. Rankin. You're one of the most enjoyable-to-read writers out there today.