Valyruh’s #CBR5 Review #48: Bleeding Hearts by Ian Rankin

This Rankin mystery was written as all of Rankin’s novels are, with plenty of action, colorful characters, and a twisty-turny plot. The real twist in Bleeding Hearts is that the “hero” of the story is anything but, which could have made this book a fascinating one, but Rankin let it fall flat instead.

Michael Weston is a British mercenary assassin, a killer for hire with no conscience and who carries no ghosts with him. Weston decides to pursue a bunch of bad guys who appear to be connected to the US government, but only because he is convinced they set him up to be caught after his latest killing, and he can’t figure out why. And the only reason Weston has taken the young woman Belinda under his protection is out of duty to her murdered father, Weston’s gun supplier who is the closest thing the assassin had to a friend. Rankin lets us think that Weston is slowly falling in love with Bel and preparing to abandon his past, but it is clear by the end that we are the more deceived in wanting a “happy ending” not meant to be. Bel is unfortunately portrayed as far too innocent for the life she has clearly led, and is thus the least interesting character of the story.

A far more challenging character is private dick Hoffer, a cocaine-addicted loser ex-cop from New York who has been for years living off the handouts of a wealthy man whose daughter was mistakenly killed by Weston years earlier during the execution of one of his paid murders. The man wants Hoffer to find Weston and kill him, and Hoffer’s income, reputation—and cocaine habit—are largely dependent on his dogged and continuous pursuit of Weston, whom he has dubbed “Demolition Man.” Hoffer is portrayed as a violent bully, a crude misogynist, a pathetic loner, and yet sufficiently smart and dogged to keep Weston on his toes.  But when the final confrontation takes place between Hoffer and Weston, the PI has a change of heart at the last minute which I found as perplexing as it was out of character. Which maybe was intentional on Rankin’s part, but it came off as fake somehow.

And when the plot climax comes, it is sufficiently bloody to satisfy the thriller devotee, but the reveal behind the mystery itself is much too contrived for my comfort.  On the whole, not one of Rankin’s better mysteries.

Owlcat’s #CBRV Review #9: Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin is a prolific detective mystery author from Scotland, to whom I was introduced several years ago by a friend in Finland.  I have read perhaps 10 of his novels and this is his most recent one, which over the course of time has followed a DI (detective), Rebus, in the Edinburgh police department.  Having aged along with the numerous novels, he has gradually worked his way through the ranks, and in this particular novel, he is semi-retired, having joined the cold case unit as a way of maintaining a semblance of usefulness.  He is not the sort of man who retires, moves to a cottage on the coast, and fishes or bird watches.  He needs to be in “the thick of things.”

In Standing in Another Man’s Grave, Rankin has Rebus behaving as his usual self, a man who is complicated, irascible, very much a maverick within the department throughout his life, “old school,” intuitive, and in frequent trouble with his superiors, sometimes to the point where The Complaints (which is their version of internal department investigators) have occasionally investigated his techniques and behaviors, never, however, finding enough evidence to do anything about him other than to annoy him and put him on notice.  He doesn’t care, as he is more determined to resolve cases and find perpetrators than worry about his own situation within the department, particularly in this newest novel, since he knows that once the case he resurrects is done, he’ll again be considered “redundant,” the British Isles term for “retired.” His drinking, which he has tempered somewhat since other appearances in other novels, and his cigarette habit are also a source of personality flaws that, along with his stubbornness and other above traits that are both good and bad, but all of which make him very believable and very human.  Despite my own adverse reactions to strong personalities, drinking and cigarette smoking, I always come away from these novels liking Rebus.

In this novel, the plot is as complicated as the man trying to solve it and at times, just a little difficult to follow, but that could also have been the result of my frequently trying to read it when I was a bit too tired.  All the characters are well developed and connect either directly or indirectly with Rebus and frequently with each other, sometimes resulting in their diverting the reader from the truth that at times is hinted at but easy to not see.  We leave that up to Rebus!

The story begins with his wanting to discover what happened to one particular girl who went missing many years ago and whose mother decides it is Rebus who can discover the truth.  In the course of investigating her case, he begins to see a pattern that had heretofore not been noticed and connects the dots, realizing they may well be indicating a serial killers’ presence in area of Inverness.  His methods to determine who this is involves his using his maverick and old school methods, while others at first dismiss his accusations until more technological evidence (i.e., computers) begin to suggest he may well be correct.  Even then, his unsubtle and tenacious willingness to step on toes, particularly those in authority, and his disregard for protocol when they and it get in the way of investigating, leads him to be thrown off the case, although Rebus being Rebus isn’t about to let that stop him.  In the midst of all this, however, is his care and concern for his former partner, DI Siobhan Clarke, and her therefore willing attempts to help him as best she can, even when he cautions her that he could be a bad influence on her, leads the two of them to a climactic ending that is satisfying and believable.

I highly recommend this book, along with all the other Ian Rankin novels, because none that I’ve read are boring and all are interesting, the characters, Rebus, John Fox in The Complaints series, Scotland itself, and the minor and major characters.  The books also can be read out of sequence, which is how I began reading them, though now I try to read them in sequence more for continuity than anything. This book in particular is exceptionally good. Maybe I relate more to the Rebus character now that I’m also retired and better understand all of the questions and insecurities he has internally, and the need to reconnect the present with the past. Even though he is an older character, however, I think anyone who enjoys a good detective story is going to enjoy this book.

Beletseri’s CBR V Review #2-4

I’ve been feeling pretty depressed this year so I’ve been cheering myself up by reading romance novels. I’m up to book 11 in CBR V but I’ve only managed to review 4. I’m actually pretty embarrassed by what I’ve read this year, but since I couldn’t manage a quarter cannonball last time, I’ll take everything I can get.


Review #2 The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

Review #3 Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks

Review # 4 Highlander Most Wanted by Maya Banks

Dear God, all that man titty looks ridiculous set together.

Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #9: Strip Jack by Ian Rankin

Maybe I should take a break in my Rankin reading fest, because this episode in his Inspector Rebus series just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it is because all the main characters in the mystery were wealthy, self-indulgent, perverse and often vicious children masquerading as mature and responsible politicians, actors, book collectors, and businessmen, and as such, generated not the slightest interest nor sympathy on my part. Even the murder victim herself, who for no obvious reason becomes an object of near obsession on Rebus’ part, proves to be a sort of black widow in the center of the web of intrigue that makes up the plot, and nobody seems to regret her death except her selfsame playmates … and Rebus!

And perhaps it is because Rebus himself is kind of uninteresting in this story. A far cry from Rankins’ Knots and Crosses. In his personal life, Rebus exploits the affections of his girlfriend for companionship and sex on his terms while rather obviously preparing to jump ship. Early on, it becomes evident to the reader that Rebus doesn’t really know who he is or what he wants out of life, and isn’t all that concerned, making it hard for the reader to care. And on the job, he continues to indulge his whims and damn the rules. The fact is that Rebus’ appeal as the protagonist in Rankin’s long-running series has always been that he is a loose cannon, but in other Rebus novels that I’ve read, it is some inner moral code that usually drives the Inspector forward while in this one, it is more an inexplicable curiosity that causes him to stick his nose into an ill-defined and unspectacular case, and an even more inexplicable obsession that leads him to solve it. A subplot surrounding lost or stolen rare books seems like a throw-away.

The novel ends with a surprise twist but on an unsatisfyingly unresolved note when the murderer is identified but not caught—again, atypical of a Rebus novel.  All this is not to say that Rankin’s descriptions of the Scottish environs are not fabulous. Similarly, his characters are well drawn and his mystery complex and well-plotted. It’s just that there was nothing really compelling about the story to draw me in.