Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #6: The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin

Another in the brilliant detective series authored by Rankin and featuring Scottish Inspector John Rebus, The Hanging Garden takes place in the city of Edinborough and is a roller-coaster of a ride through gang feuds, white slavery and prostitution, drugs and weapons trafficking, old Nazis, and even the frightening Japanese Yakuza (mafia).

Rebus is an old-school detective who frequently breaks the rules to right wrongs as he sees them, and then pays the price time and again. He is divorced after years of being more wedded to his job than his wife, he is an alcoholic fighting a daily battle to recover from his addiction, and he is a father who despairs of connecting to his daughter. But his moral compass is true and, as such, he is our hero. This time, he is trying to determine whether an old man was actually a vicious Nazi killer during WWI as people in high places attempt to bury the case. While pondering the question raised by the case of whether justice delayed is still justice, Rebus stumbles across a prostitution ring involving young Bosnian women blackmailed into sex slavery by a slick up-and-coming gangster who is challenging an imprisoned crime boss for control of Edinborough’s seamy underside, and perhaps beyond. When Rebus tries to protect one of the enslaved women, his daughter ends up in a coma–the victim of a hit-and-run–and Rebus fears it is retaliation for his involvement in the prostitution case. He is ineluctably drawn into the gang warfare.

The story escalates rapidly from there, as Rebus painfully pieces together the multi-sided plot of who is doing what to, or with, or against whom, with its repeated surprise twists and turns. In truth, the novel has its weak points: two apparently disparate cases—the Nazi and the prostitution ring—converge a little too conveniently; the turning point in solving the case hinges a little too easily on guesswork, even the friendship that evolves between Rebus’ ex-wife and current girlfriend at his daughter’s hospital bedside was a bit too contrived for my tastes. And yet, Rankin manages to put together an extremely complicated story with satisfying suspense, politically challenging themes, and a complex protagonist with whom we share the frustrations of bureaucracy, the pain of addiction and loneliness, and the lonely business of trying to do the right thing.

4 thoughts on “Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #6: The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin

  1. Great review — I agree about the weaknesses in the writing regarding Rebus and his personal life, but I try to ignore it because the rest of the story (or stories, if you look at the series as a whole) are so strong. I just love these books so much.
    Have you read any of Rankin’s other books?

  2. Thanks and yes, just about to finish his “Knots and Crosses.” Any others you recommend, or should I just start at the beginning and work forward? 🙂

    • I read them all in order…it was interesting to see Rebus from change (or resist changing) while he aged from his 40s to his 60s.
      I’m about to read The Complaints, another bunch of books Edinburgh’s Internal Affairs unit. Hoping they’ll be as good.
      I also read a few of his stand-alone books…Witch Hunt and Bleeding Hearts. I enjoyed all of them, but the Rebus ones were my favorite.

  3. I enjoy a Rebus now and then – though I’ve noticed that in his books, if a woman has dyed hair, she’s either bound to be trouble or is directly connected to something *bad*. Does this one do that, too?

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