Fleshmarket Close is the fifteen John Rebus adventure, but it does not match up to the very high standard Ian Rankin had set himself from about Black and Blue onwards. Here is a summary of the plot from the Amazon listing of the book…
“An illegal immigrant is found murdered in an Edinburgh housing scheme: a racist attack, or something else entirely? Rebus is drawn into the case, but has other problems: his old police station has closed for business, and his masters would rather he retire than stick around. But Rebus is that most stubborn of creatures. As Rebus investigates, he must visit an asylum seekers’ detention centre, deal with the sleazy Edinburgh underworld, and maybe even fall in love…Siobhan meanwhile has problems of her own. A teenager has disappeared from home and Siobhan is drawn into helping the family, which will mean travelling closer than is healthy towards the web of a convicted rapist. Then there’s the small matter of the two skeletons – a woman and an infant – found buried beneath a concrete cellar floor in Fleshmarket Close. The scene begins to look like an elaborate stunt – but whose, and for what purpose? And how can it tie to the murder on the unforgiving housing-scheme known as Knoxland?”
The subject matter is actually quite appropriate to a blog post on the 4th of July— its about refugees, illegal aliens, the slave trade in foreign brought into Western countries by greedy persons in Scotland… or say America, greedy persons who are all to willing to turn a blind eye to the illegal status or immigrant character of a worker, if they will work for slave’s wages. This is a pertinent and important topic to discuss, but this novel only scratches the surface of the issue, does not dig too deeply— shows the morass but offers few constructive responses.
As for our favorite subjects– John Rebus, Siobhan Clarke, Ger Caferty… they are in this novel, but Caferty is mainly in the background, and despite hopes raised by the end of the previous novel, a Question of Blood, which was excellent, there is no further development in the relationship of Rebus and Clarke worth mentioning…. not that I would mention it and spoil things anyway!! What we do get a strong sense of is Rebus being further marginalized, not given cases to manage directly, having to plug in where he can help others, not even given a decent desk in a police station, as the powers that be try to push him out the door, or make clear he is persona non grata. And totally missing in this novel is Gil Templer, or Rebus’ daughter Sammy, or Rebus’ brother Michael… In other words, this novel has some lacunae, some gaps, and falls short. Now were this novel by a lesser author, it would likely be seen as a good novel, raising a few interesting questions about illegal immigrants. But Ian Rankin is no ordinary novelist… and we have come to expect better of him.