Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ian Rankin. A Good Hanging (1992)

     Ian Rankin. A Good Hanging (1992) Rankin is good at what he does, the depiction of Edinburgh as a bleak, sleazy dystopia rife with assorted vice and crime. Detective Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh CID uses unorthodox methods, and wishes he could use more, especially of the violent illegal kind. He’s one of several fictional cops working outside the procedural box. Police procedure is essentially boring, the collection and sifting of massive amounts of data in the hope that someone will recognise the significant bits and create a plausible narrative that’s close enough to the truth that some justice will be done. But the fact is that the majority of crimes are not solved, which is the main reason for plea bargaining and withdrawn charges, not to mention cases that never come to trial for lack of evidence.
     The strength of these stories is Rebus, one of the most believable characters in crime or any other fiction. These stories are romances, adventure stories in which the hero must traverse a menacing wilderness, overcome all kinds of enemies, and defeat evil. The modern desire for superficial realism introduces ambiguities, ironies, and complexities different in content but not scope from those of their mediaeval prototypes. Romances satisfy our desire for some kind of metaphysical and moral order. No matter how bleak and sleazy Edinburgh appears to be, Rebus helps hold back chaos. Crooks are put away (or worse), the innocent are avenged, Rebus can sleep without too much nightmare dreaming. He has some hope, and so we too have some hope that evil will not triumph, however many skirmishes it wins.
     Well done. ***

1 comment:

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