Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Watchman" by Ian Rankin

Forgive the Bookbabe, but she's pressed for time in getting these reviews done before 2007 ends! In fact, there are mere hours until the end of this year, so I'm cheating and using some Publisher's Weekly reviews to at least give you an idea of the plot of the books. Moving on....

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.

Yes, he definitely would have been a hit either way, but I still enjoy the Rebus novels better. While this was a pretty good book, it took me almost half of it to figure out what the hell was going on. As is typical of Rankin, there are a lot of characters, not necessarily the best thing in a short novel such as this. And while Miles is merely watching, the book tends to flag a bit. It's only when Miles' life is directly threatened that the action picks up, and dramatically. That's when I finally felt like I had a page-turner on my hands.

Rankin admits in his introduction that it's obvious that this is one of his very early works. He also points out a few characters to keep an eye out for, one being Jim Stevens, a reporter that shows up in several of the Rebus works. Also, there's a hint that the great inspector himself may make an appearance here, but I won't tell you if it's true. All in all, I enjoyed the last third of the book immensely.

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