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A Good Hanging
by Ian Rankin
Series: Inspector Rebus
An omnibus of twelve short stories in the Detective Inspector Rebus mystery series revolving around an Edinburgh detective.
This was an odd collection with most of the stories not feeling very Rebus-like. I don’t know if it has simply been too long since I’ve read a Rebus or if Rankin needs more pages to develop the inspector.
There’s a smugness to this, although I do enjoy reading how Rebus figures them out, even if the process and Rebus’ solutions do irritate the hell out of Detective Constable Brian Holmes. I’m curious as to Rankin’s background as he does have a lot of fun making up clever headlines in a lot of the stories.
“Playback” discovers a dead Moira Bitter lying in a pool of her own blood with her boyfriend, John MacFarlane, fleeing the scene.
It’s clever if a bit easy for Rebus to figure out.
“The Dean Curse” is another that becomes obvious quickly. A former Army major has retired after traumatic events resulting from his undercover work, but it seems that the people he worked against have found him and are enacting revenge. It pits Rebus against a London terrorist unit with the requisite jockeying for jurisdiction.
It’s also weird as Rebus is reading Hammett’s The Dain Curse and gets rather dramatic about Hammett “influencing” him. I suspect it was Rankin having read some Hammett and getting ideas from his reading.
“Being Frank” is one huge coincidence when Frank, a gentleman of the road who is full of stories, overhears a pair of men in a suspicious conversation. They are words that Rebus blows off until he hears them again in a different, unexpected circumstance.
Cute and the level of coincidence is unbelievable.
“Concrete Evidence” is a convoluted cold case that Rebus follows to its bitter end. Seemingly unsolvable, Rebus follows each thread as it leads to another and another until the truth rears up.
Whew, talk about coldblooded…
“Seeing Things” is a religious experience when three Catholic girls see God appear in the Hermitage of Braid, and Father Byrne and some zealots appear to protect the area. It doesn’t seem they do so well since a dead trunk is found. One that leads to the discovery of a murder.
“A Good Hanging” finds a Fringe festival in Edinburgh with people performing all over the city, and at first, the man hanging from a gibbet is thought to be part of the drama.
This had a weird beginning and ended by being too easily solved and so very sad.
“Tit for Tat” is aflame in arson when a young man’s flat is torched. His own fault as he provides the police with the motive.
Cute bit of detecting, but what an idiot the victim was!
“Not Provan” starts with a thrilled Rebus watching a trial for a young man who’s been a thorn in his side for years. Finally, this berk is going to be put away. Only, during the trial, it appears that he’ll get off. Rebus is trying to figure out how when he encounters another amateur detective investigating the night in question.
Another clever bit of detecting.
“Sunday” was intended as a day of reflection, and Rebus is spending this Sunday, trying to find a peace as he submerges himself into Sunday’s weekly routine.
This one was slow to unveil and finally makes sense as to why Rebus is so obsessed with his home life. This was one of my favorites if only because there’s a yin-yang in Rebus’ thoughts on the reasons for his introspection.
“Auld Lang Syne” finds Rebus and a contingent of policemen out on New Year’s Eve trying to stop a drug deal when an unexpected suspect turns up. When Trigger confirms having seen the light, Rebus doesn’t quite buy it. It’s a very suspicious hope.
While the encounter between Rebus and bad guy is interesting, I suspect it’s more of a statement on the stupidity of inter-law enforcement rivalry. I did like the twist Rankin used in this.
“The Gentleman’s Club” discovers a young girl naked and in the bath, having committed suicide. Her distraught and wealthy parents are clueless as to why, but the clues pile up and the truth is just horrifying.
Wow, the resolution of this was enough to make my blood run cold.
“Monstrous Trumpet” takes the piss out of Inspector Clouseau, er, I mean, Inspector Cluzeau, a visiting French cop who wants to see how the Edinburgh cops do it. Chief Inspector Lauderdale thinks it’ll be laugh to make Rebus responsible for him. Desperate to figure out what to do with him, Rebus begs the desk sergeant for a case. One which finds the Scot and the Frenchman in the Royal Mile at an art gallery to investigate the theft of a bronze.
This was clever, funny, embarrassing, and sad with the betrayal.
The Cover and Title
The cover feels more like a Victorian mystery with its smoggy looking gray background speckled in black accented with the distorted perspective of the orange, glowing street lamp.
The title is taken from one of the short stories and could be thought to reflect on the fate of those who are caught, metaphorically A Good Hanging.