I tend to read the Rebus novels in no particular order, with a view to see what I can learn as a series writer from someone who is clearly the best in the field. Once again I have not been disappointed.
In a House of Lies certainly leans on the assumption that the reader has already committed and is a party to the characters and their lineage. But Ian Rankin never falls foul of relying upon this as a substitute for a finely stitched plot and consistently believable characterisation. I particularly admire his decision to encumber Rebus with COPD and all that it entails in terms of watching a once strong character become frail and pick up the tab for his lifestyle in the way that everyone else must.
My video blog, which focuses on reading as a writer, will probably select two main elements of this book as lesson worthy for the would-be thriller scribbler. The first is Rankin’s ability to write a police procedural which is in very many ways stripped back to to the bare bones of frankly believable detective work. He depends upon extremely subtle brush strokes at various stages throughout which, if a discerning reader has an eye and a will to follow, the path can become clearer in the same way it does for the protagonists. Indeed one or two instances where I foolishly thought Rankin had dropped the ball in terms of dialogue or character interaction, in fact, proved to be crucial fulcrum points. And of course, the last laugh was with the author! This is a writer who will not short change himself in the process of finding the way through. The second is the lesson of finishing an effective thriller. No spoilers from me here but I think it is a wonderful example of how an often slow-burning and multifaceted story can be brought together with the satisfaction of a multi-course meal served in exactly the right way.
That said I’m hungry for more and I’m sure you will be too, but my next stop is back in time. I’m going to try for one of the Rebus originals. As a man with my own novel to write, not my first, I was very pleased to hear that Rankin also shares the jitters, the anxiety, and the deadline panic even though he’s so much further down the line than you or I. I dare say that’s why he is so consistently good at this. Unlike the reader, the writer does not have the luxury to chop and change or go back. The only thing that matters is what happens next.