Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin:Book Notes

I included Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin in a Weekly Geeks post on unreviewed books and Deb asked: Is ‘Knots and Crosses’ the first Rebus novel you’ve read? How important is it to you to read such a series in order? Does it matter? The Rebus novels, to me, are as much about Rankin’s development of his character as they are puzzles/crimes to be solved.

Eva asked: Is Knots and Crosses more of a mystery or a thriller?

Knots and Crosses is the first of the Rebus books, but it is not the first one I’ve read. I’ve also watched many of the TV dramas, although I don’t remember this one. I think it is better to read them in the order they were written because the character of Rebus evolves throughout the series. In Knots and Crosses various facts about his past are revealed, which helped me understand events in the later books. And it’s definitely more of a mystery than a thriller.

Briefly it’s about the search for the killer of young girls, set in Edinburgh. Rebus receives anonymous letters containing knotted string and matchstick crosses – a puzzle that is connected with his time in the SAS, that only he can solve. It’s fast paced and I did work out who the killer is before the end of the book, but that only added to my satisfaction.

Knots and Crosses is in an omnibus edition, Rebus: the Early Years, containing the first three Rebus books and a short introduction in which Rankin explains how he came to write the Rebus books:

I wanted to update Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to 1980s Edinburgh. My idea was: cop as good guy (Jekyll), villain as bad guy (Hyde). So I wrote Knots and Crosses. I was living in a room in a ground-floor flat in Arden Street, so my hero, John Rebus, had to live across the road. When the book was published, I found to my astonishment that everyone was saying that I’d written a whodunnit, a crime novel. I think I’m still the only crime writer I know who hadn’t a clue about the genre before setting out.

I’m now reading the second Rebus book –  Hide and Seek.

3 thoughts on “Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin:Book Notes

  1. I love Eva’s question! It is so hard to figure out if a book should be labeled crime book or mystery or “cozy mystery” or thriller – it’s the area in which I have the most trouble collocating my books!


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