The Hanging Garden by
hbk out January 98
Published by Orion
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.
- Gold Dagger winner & creator of Lindsay Gordon, Kate Brannigan & Tony Hill)