Ian Rankin, Fleshmarket Close


Ian Rankin’s creation, Inspector John Rebus is a popular hero that transcends the stereotypical detective figure. Rankin uses the form to fill out a rounded character, a sense of place and the wider social reality. Rebus and Clarke are involved in disturbing cases that led to the discovery of skeletons at Fleshmarket Close. This edition contains an appreciation by the bestselling thriller writer Lee Child, who calls Ian Rankin Britain’s best.

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Ian Rankin‘s Inspector John Rebus is probably the best known contemporary British detective series apart from Morse. The first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses (1987) was originally conceived as a one-off, and was followed by two non-series book before the second installment arrived in 1991. In the early 90s Ian Rankin was little known and although his thrillers showed promise he lacked a market for them. This changed when he decided to work on a book twice the usual length with multiple story lines, a back story rich in Scottish heritage, with overlapping contemporary concerns. Black and Blue (1997) was critically acclaimed, received the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger and created the confidence and space for Rankin to develop and take the Rebus series to new levels; bringing significantly added zest to the growing book trade interest in a detective that was more about shadows and contradictions than solutions – thus noir came out of the shadows.

The combination of the seedy side of Edinburgh with the hand-drinking, tough but vulnerable policeman with humanity, and deft narratives paced like adventure stories was noted by television producers. Once the right leading man was found Rebus on the small screen came to rival other detective adaptations such as Wexford, Resnick and Morse.

Plotline from the Ian Rankin site: An illegal immigrant is found murdered in an Edinburgh housing scheme: a racist attack, or something else entirely? Rebus is drawn into the case, but has other problems: his old police station has closed for business, and his masters would rather he retire than stick around. But Rebus is that most stubborn of creatures. As he investigates, he must visit an asylum seekers’ detention centre, deal with the sleazy Edinburgh underworld, and maybe even fall in love… Siobhan, meanwhile, has problems of her own. A teenager has disappeared from home and Siobhan is drawn into helping the family, which will mean travelling closer than is healthy, towards the web of a convicted rapist. Then there’s the small matter of the two skeletons – a woman and an infant – found buried beneath a concrete cellar floor in Fleshmarket Close. The scene begins to look like an elaborate stunt – but whose, and for what purpose? And how does it tie into a murder on the unforgiving housing-scheme known as Knoxland? Fleshmarket Close explores what it means to a society when shared heritage is lost beneath uglier aspects of our nature: greed, mistrust, violence and exploitation. It is a true state-of-the-nation novel, and one of Rebus’s most personal cases yet.

Lee ChildThe Scorpion Press edition was issued with an Appreciation by highly regarded thriller writer Lee Child. Child gives a fascinating insights into Ian Rankin’s development into the detective writer that surpassed Wexford and Morse in the crime market to become in his view Great Britain’s best. Our print run was 90 numbered and signed copies with 15 lettered for presentation purposes.

5.00 out of 5

2 reviews for Ian Rankin, Fleshmarket Close

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Lee Child on May 26, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by Lee Child

    “Rebus as a character fits easily in the much-loved lineage recently occupied by Rendell’s Wexford and Dexter’s Morse, but I doubt that there was any element of design or expectation in Rankin’s original intention. In fact I would guess that the absence of design and expectation is the true root of Ian’s success. I don’t know him well – we’re friendly but not friends, two colleagues adrift in a world of hundreds of very private loners – but I know him well enough to understand that he’s a blend of three very central Scottish virtues: he’s a dreamer, and he’s a worker, and he’s stubborn. The dreamer component – the youthful hand-drawn comics, the lyrics for the imaginary punk band, even its tour schedule – is of course essential to any writer. Less celebrated is the willingness to work. (Ian would laugh if directly accused of a willingness to work, but that’s all modesty and self-deprecation. Because he worked.) He was a hi-fi journalist – I remember his byline from a period when a decent record player was all I wanted from life – and he wrote novels under an assumed name, and when he couldn’t find work writing he was a grape crusher and a swineherd. Then he began the Rebus sequence. And I imagine he began it with hopes and dreams, but with no assumptions, because amongst writers only idiots assume things, and Rankin isn’t an idiot. And it’s important – and ironic, now – to recall that Rebus was a slow burn. There was no overnight success. At one point there were even rumours that Ian might have to ditch the guy. . .

    The naysayers were saying nay, but Rankin chose to say yes. Invisible inhibitions were loosened and the subconscious relaxation that followed allowed the character to blossom. Not that the early books were no good – far from it – just that at a key moment in the series’ development there was no deadly incentive to play it safe, make it respectable, nail it down, such that a degree of early success might have carried with it. Instead, one can picture Rankin saying – as Rebus himself would – “OK, pal, sod it, we’ll let it all hang out now.” That moment was the liberation and maturation of Rebus-as-icon. At that moment Rebus moved ahead of Wexford and Morse precisely because Rankin assumed he wasn’t writing an icon. He assumed he was just writing his type of guy, with nothing much to gain and nothing much to lose. And that kind of eyes-shut abandon was exactly what the genre needed. The result was a character full of organic integrity, full of personal quirks that ring as true as a bell. In a genre where too many characters have attitudes and eccentricities that don’t wholly convince – that feel manufactured, or bolted-on – Rebus is as real as your neighbour. I’m fascinated by the fact that Rebus sleeps in his armchair. To me, that’s such a slight, insubstantial, but revealing piece of business that it may be the most inspired I’ve ever read. A lesser author would have constructed some huge post-traumatic scenario to communicate the same sense of alienation. A lesser author would have felt obliged to. But Rankin isn’t a lesser author. He’s a sublime craftsman who works hard and had the self-confidence to do it his way. And the result is that right now he’s quantifiably Great Britain’s best – and he fully deserves that accolade…”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Sue Magee on May 26, 2012 :

    Sue Magee
    “… I’ve always been in awe of Rankin’s ear for dialect. He never falls into the trap of producing dialect as pantomime as so many writers do, but you’d know where the story’s set even without the descriptions of Edinburgh. Rankin lives in the city and travels on public transport. He knows it like the back of his hand and loves it: that comes through in the book.
    Organised crime features in a number of the Rebus novels and there is an element of it in this novel. It isn’t a storyline which greatly appeals to me, but it’s not overworked in the book.
    This is a cracking story. I read the 400 or so pages in a day and a half when I really should have been doing something else. There are a number of complex plot lines which interact well and the resolution didn’t seem in the least contrived. The ending is particularly satisfying: I didn’t see it coming despite the fact that all the clues were there. It’s utterly readable too. You don’t have to work at it – my problem was putting it down!
    This is the sixteenth book in the Rebus series and I find it remarkable that they are as fresh as ever. There are still fresh insights into the personalities of the characters who appear throughout the series. With each new book they develop and grow, although it’s always the plots which dominate the novels rather than the characters. You don’t need to have read the preceding books to enjoy Fleshmarket Close…”

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