Monday, 2 January 2017

Hide & Seek by Ian Rankin (John Rebus, #2) - Book Review

3.5/5 Stars

Only Rebus seems to care about a death which looks more like murder every day,

about a seductive danger he can almost taste,

appealing to the darkest corners of his mind...

Edition: Paperback
Pages: 261
Chapters: -- (Divided into days rather than chapters; it takes place over the course of a week.)
Publisher: Orion

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


We join Detective Inspector John Rebus in his second novel, Hide & Seek, and Rankin doesn't disappoint. A solid, stable suspense story inhabits this entry. It doesn't quite, for me, live up to its predecessor, Knots & Crosses, but it doesn't fail to take the reader on a dark adventure that's littered with black comedy and salacious secrets.

The themes outweigh the story, both in quality and quantity, but the two merge exceptionally well with Rankin's desultory tone. Rebus is in the midst of yet another mystery that has numerous threads that don't seem to interconnect, but are nonetheless part of a whole. I can't fault the intrigue, and protagonist John Rebus, while a little transparent as the author tries to cement what he wants in Rebus, is a fascinating character study.

The pace, writing, and length also all go a long way to streamlining Hide & Seek's experience with a smooth and succinct style.


A junkie lies dead in an Edinburgh squat - spreadeagled, cross-like on the floor between two burned-down candles, a five-pointed start daubed on the wall above. Just another dead addict, until John Rebus begins to chip away at the indifference, treachery, deceit and sleaze that lurk behind the facade of the Edinburgh familiar to the tourists. Only Rebus seems to care about a death which looks more like murder every day, about a seductive danger he can almost taste, appealing to the darkest corners of his mind.

Plot - 3.5/5 Stars

A promising premise drags us into the dark underbelly of a late 1980s Edinburgh. With a junkie dead and occult markings haunting the body's resting place, the police are caught between awe and ambivalence. Only John Rebus seems interested in the truth. From there we stumble with him as he tries to connect the dots that keep multiplying, and it's fun. Rankin definitely inspires the detective within you. Once the picture focuses, however, things seem unnervingly simple compared to the journey there. It's satisfying, and a reminder that simple answers are often the best, but there's a little twinge of disappointment.

Knots & Crosses, Hide & Seek's predecessor, has a few gasp-worthy moments that are missing here.

My favourite aspect of the novel is its themes. While the plot, apart from its clues, is fairly simple, Rankin conveys a myriad of impressive messages and food for thought. My edition's introduction lets the reader know that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde plays a huge inspiration on Hide & Seek, and it's apparent. Rankin excels at showing us the duality of his characters and the Edinburgh they stay in. He rips away the beauty - the sights the tourists see - and shows the reader a world full of death and seduction.

But that's not all, of course. Class divides and social and political hierarchies highlight poverty in a stark setting. With events that eerily echo reality, the author digs a pit in our stomachs with a shovel made of corruption and tainted innocence.

The novel isn't even particularly graphic, but what it doesn't say goes a long, long way.

Pace - 4/5 Stars

Hide & Seek travels at a steady pace, and thanks to the novel's relatively short length, expect to fly through those pages. It can stall in places, but Rebus's voice and character ensure an interesting experience.

Characters - 3.5/5 Stars

There's really only one character that I want to talk about. The rest of the cast fills out quite nicely, but they can't quite escape Rebus's prominent shadow.

The man himself is still a little shaky, like the author doesn't quite have a completely solid image of Rebus yet, but what is created is compelling. John Rebus is a flawed but compassionate character that can be tough and demanding. Like the novel's inspiration, he dallies between two sides of himself: The one that wants to connect and the one that refuses to. Brutal sarcasm is often his most effective weapon, and there are moments of hilarity that are just fantastic.

Writing - 4/5 Stars

Events build solidly, with an abundant, yet satisfying, amount of theories and clues to get the readers in detective mode.

Overall - 3.5/5 Stars

Hide & Seek doesn't best its predecessor, but it's still one fascinating journey through flights of fancy filth.

Previous Instalment: Knots & Crosses

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