Knots and Crosses: Smoking Kills


So I’m reading a proper novel right now (stay tuned for the report), but in the interest of my pressing reading schedule, I downloaded the audio book of Ian Rankin’s Knots and Crosses to listen to while cooking, commuting, and doing chores. In discussion with N. last night I argued that listening to the audio book is *not* cheating in 10-10-12 both because I make the rules in this absurd contest and because and audio book isn’t abridged or fiddled with as a movie adaption might be, and it takes just as long (or longer, I think) to listen as it odes to read. So there.

Guilt assuaged, let me tell you what I gleaned from the book: Edinburgh is an exceptionally safe city for tourists, women are sexy tarts unless proven otherwise, and smoking may kill you, but you’ll enjoy your life more because of it.

I wasn’t much taken with Inspector Rebus, maybe because the only thing that humanizes him is his addiction to smoking. We know he’s divorced, but not why; we know he has challenges with his daughter, but not what those challenges might be. I accept this is the first book in a series, and so I’ll allow that his character development might take place over the course of the series, but as it is, I found myself largely indifferent when his daughter is kidnapped. I like to think I’m a better person than indifference at a 12 year old girl being kidnapped (though my reaction to The Lovely Bones suggests otherwise…), so I’ll hold the narrative responsible for discouraging my interest in either Samantha or Rebus.

As for the “mystery,” it’s not really much of a mystery. More that Rebus is a detective. The reader could not follow clues and guess who the killer is because the narrative doesn’t leave any clues, it just reveal all when Rebus is hypnotized. Yes, that handy plot device where the Inspector knew everything all along, he just had to be put under to remember – as in a dream! – what he already knew.

All this makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy Knots and Crosses, which isn’t strictly speaking true. In fact, I enjoyed it a great deal, and am perhaps struggling against admitting this by demonstrating the manifold ways the book fails. So why did I like it? For the same reasons I like Law & Order, I guess. I like watching the forces of law and order methodically, if ploddingly, go about the business of protecting the status quo. I like plot lines that are reassuringly simple, that promise without the shadow of a doubt that everyone (save the first four murdered girls…) will be just fine. That a neat resolution will be reached. And it was. Am I a shallow or weak reader for liking the book for these reasons? Maybe. But it’s a welcome dose of predictability when set against some of the other books I’ve read. Including the book I’m reading right now. More on that to come. Soon.


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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, British literature, Fiction, Mystery

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