Ian Rankin, The Hanging Garden


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. The Hanging Garden was the first Scorpion Press book by Rankin. It immediately followed his break through novel Black and Blue (1997).

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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.

Andrew Taylor“His most complex novel is possibly The Hanging Garden (1998), with its issues of war criminals and sexual slavery as persuasively handled as you could wish”. Barry Forshaw, The Rough Rough to Crime Fiction. Rebus in fact has two tough cases on his hands; as well as sorting out turf wars he is interested in a possible SS death camp survivor. The Scorpion Press edition was issued with an Appreciation by awarding winning novelist Andrew Taylor. The run was 90 numbered and signed and 15 lettered.

5.00 out of 5

3 reviews for Ian Rankin, The Hanging Garden

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Andrew Taylor on May 26, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by Andrew Taylor

    “The Hanging Garden – the title comes from a song by The Cure – is the tenth volume in Ian Rankin’s Rebus Series, which began with Knots and Crosses in 1987. Sardonic and assured, the series holds a mirror to modern Scotland, and in particular to its capital city. The reflection is not, on the whole, a pretty sight. Rankin’s Edinburgh may not be a city for faint-hearted coppers, but the books would be worth reading for their sense of place alone. Detective Inspector Rebus, now exploring without marked enthusiasm the delights of being a teetotaller, is Edinburgh’s answer to Philip Marlowe. A damaged loner, albeit one with a warrant card, he is a man of integrity and humanity. Like all individualists he poses a potential problem for those who work in organisations, whether police or criminal. Rebus is not an easy man, and not always a likeable one, but we cannot help but sympathise with him. The Rebus books have a powerful narrative drive and show an unusual ability to pace a story of adventure. In this and their sense of place, they are sometimes eerily reminiscent of the novels of Scott, Stevenson and Buchan. They are vigorously plotted, too, inventively exploiting the conventions of crime fiction to offer tantalising glimpses of Scotland’s grubby underbelly. Ian Rankin was a poet before he was a crime novelist, and he has a poet’s eye for detail and a poet’s ear for language. He uses his laconic prose as a literary paint-stripper, scouring away pretensions to reveal the realities beneath. He has a particular gift for the sort of economical phrase that uses two or three words where lesser writers would use a paragraph. For example, the eighth Rebus book, Let It Bleed (1995), opens with a pair of teenagers leaping from the Firth of Forth bridge and hitting the deck of a frigate rather than the water; and the result is memorably described as “hairy jam”.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Kirkus Reviews on May 26, 2012 :

    Kirkus Reviews THE HANGING GARDEN (reviewed on September 1, 1998)

    “Staying on top of two complex investigations is tough enough, but what really has Inspector John Rebus up the wall is staying on the wagon. Here’s Edinburgh about to be become the scene of an all-out gang war, and there’s Rebus, the born-again teetotaler, doing what he can to stop it. Which at first isn’t much. Nor are the local thugs getting his full attention, since a new case has him running around in unproductive circles (while thinking what a power of good a wee dram might do for his morale). Rebus is investigating one Joseph Lintz, who may or may not be Josef Linzstek – a notorious Nazi war criminal who, as an SS lieutenant in 1941, wiped out an entire French village of 700 men, women, and children. And such a benign, unassuming little man this Lintz seems to be. Suddenly, unexpectedly, it turns up that he has connections to Tommy Telford, local mob chieftain. And Tommy, in his turn, has begun to demonstrate connections of a distinctly multinational flavor. Before you can say drugs and “prossies,” Rebus’s patch is awash in entrepreneurial emissaries from the Yakuza and the Chechens (Japanese and Russian mafia). Add to all this the woe and worry of a hit-and-run that fells his beloved daughter. Accident? Or is it gangspeak for – back off, Rebus – ? Once again, action that’s relentlessly slam-bang, plotting that’s labyrinthine. Rebus, a puzzle to himself and an enigma to everyone else – especially that array of interesting ladies who’ve been drawn to him over the course of nine outings (Black and Blue, 1997, etc.) – remains one of the most charismatic heroes in contemporary crime fiction.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Val McDermid on May 26, 2012 :

    Val McDermid on the Tangled Web site, posted 1998.
    The Hanging Garden, by Ian Rankin (Orion, #16.99) Ian Rankin’s last novel, Black and Blue was voted best crime novel of 1997, both by the judges of The Macallan/CWA Gold Dagger and by this column. It’s a hard act to follow, but with this latest absorbing chapter in the life and work of Detective Inspector John Rebus, Rankin shows little sign of being daunted by critical success. Rebus is stalled in a dead-end investigation of a supposed war criminal. And Rebus is a dangerous man to have at a loose end. When the uneasy truce between the two local gangs who control organised crime in Edinburgh starts to fray round the edges, Rebus can’t resist pulling on the loose thread that quickly threatens to unravel what passes for peace on the streets. In this case, the loose thread is a young Bosnian woman press-ganged into drugs and prostitution. She reminds Rebus of his own daughter so it’s hard for him to resist the parallels between their lives when his own Samantha is also damaged by very different means, and it almost drives him crazy. The Hanging Garden is both thoughtful and thrilling, its complicated structure reflecting the tangled web of the story. Intelligent and literate, tough and unrelenting, Ian Rankin wrestles with the complex problems posed by crime in the dying days of the old millenium. He offers no easy answers, but provides as much pleasure as he provokes perplexity. Among contemporary chronicles of policing, he has many rivals but few equals”.

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