Ian Rankin, Fleshmarket Close (2004)

I have never been to Edinburgh, but both the epigraph of this thriller and the story itself are not exactly material for the Tourist Bureau. Yet the first few pages made me laugh – a good start indeed!

“The climate of Edinburgh is such that the weak succumb young… and the strong envy them.”

Dr. Johnson to Boswell.

I’d heard of Rankin and Rebus before (who hasn’t?), but it took our holidays home bookshelf to convince me. Have you ever noticed the books you can find in holidays rentals? It can be the best or the worst. Our house in Lubeck was definitely in the best category, and there was something for every taste.

I won’t try to summarize the plot, let me just list the crimes Rebus has on his hands: the murder of an asylum seeker in a squalid housing estate, the discovery of skeletons of a woman and a child in the basement of a bar, and the disappearance of a young woman whose sister had been victim of a sex crime. What a program!

The resolution, somewhat 400 pages later, was quite satisfying, and I really appreciated Rebus himself, although I’m sure I would hate to meet him in person (and even more so to work with). Of course, he’s a bit of a cliché cop, with his gruff but mellowing habits, his foul-mouthed dialect and his alcohol-fuelled brooding. But there’s nothing wrong with clichés when characters are so neatly drawn you can hear them breathe and sigh.

But still, I’m not going to Edinburgh anytime soon.

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