Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin: Book Review

The latest Rebus book I’ve read is Fleshmarket Close. As usual with Ian Rankin’s books this is a complex novel, based around the issues of asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and racial prejudice. Rebus, himself is tolerant, pointing out that his grandfather was Polish and an immigrant. But Rebus hasn’t mellowed at all. He is still a loner and now an outsider, shipped out of his old office, St Leonard’s to Gayfield Square where there is no office or even desk space for him. He’s impatient with his superiors, realising they think it’s time for him to retire.

There is plenty going on in this book, a lot of characters and sub-plots, so it needs concentrated reading. There’s the murder of an unknown immigrant found dead in Knoxland, high-rise blocks of flats, the discovery of two skeletons under the concrete floor in the cellar of the Warlock pub in Fleshmarket Close, the disappearance of Ishbel Jardine, whose sister, a rape victim, had committed suicide, and the murder of the convicted rapist, Donny Cruickshank. 

Rebus is relentless in his pursuit of the truth, despite his drinking problems and his difficulties in maintaining any meaningful relationships. DS Siobhan Clarke is also feeling more and more as though she is turning into Rebus, with her late-night lone drinking and methods of working,and there are signs that she and Rebus are drawing closer.  How all the cases connect, or indeed if they do connect, is not clear until near the end of the book, when Big Ger Cafferty makes a brief appearance. Although Rebus can’t prove it he knows that Cafferty was behind the scenes using, abusing, conning and manipulating people.

7 thoughts on “Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin: Book Review

  1. Margaret – Thanks for this terrific review. That’s one of Rankin’s real talents, I think: giving readers many little pieces of the same tapestry and drawing all the threads of it together. As you say, readers have to follow carefully with these plots, but they are, most of them, quite well-done.


  2. The Rebus and Cafferty relationship is hard for me to figure out. It seems like Cafferty is always helping Rebus, but Rebus is so nasty to Cafferty. I would be interested in hearing your take on it!


    1. The Rebus/Cafferty relationship has developed over the series. There are a number of books that I’ve read and not made any notes as I read them and didn’t write about them at all and it is in some of these books that the key to their relationship makes things clearer. In the first book I read, Set In Darkness (the 11th! in the series) their relationship is complex, hostile and aggressive and yet they work in partnership and Rebus only survives with his help. In the earlier books they are implacably opposed and Rebus gets Cafferty convicted and imprisoned in Barlinnie Gaol. At times people suspect that he is in Cafferty’s pocket – which of course he isn’t.

      At some point I’d like to re-read the books and sort out all the relationships and sequence of events, etc – if only there weren’t so many other books I want to read.


  3. I keep meaning to try Rankin and then the fear that he is too gritty for my tastes overcomes me. I can read graphic violence in some instances, and I can read depressing in some manifestations, but I always had the impression that Rankin brought the two together in quite a hard-boiled way. But maybe he is less black than I am painting him? I’d love to give him a go if I dared.


    1. Litlove, I’m far too squeamish to read hard-boiled crime fiction or anything too graphic and gory. The Rebus books are grim in theya re about crime and Rebus himself is a dark character, gets depressed and drinks far too much and his personal life is a mess. The novels are police procedurals of a sort – Rebus is a loner and a bit of a maverick and although there are some scenes that made me wince and mentally avert my eyes, I can handle them. They provide a very different picture of Edinburgh than say Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie novels, but there is just as much to think about in them than in other more ‘literary’ novels, dealing with modern social issues as well as crime.


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