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Getting Black and Blue with Ian Rankin

Inspector John Rebus is brash, hard-headed, and utterly unlikeable as a person. This could all explain why John Rebus has been such a successful character for author, Ian Rankin. I've read several of the John Rebus novels, have seen several of the, often times, completely irrelevant BBC Television adaptations, and listened to the BBC Radio adaptations (far better than the television ones). So, I decided to read another novel in the long-running John Rebus series.

Black and Blue (named after a Rolling Stones album) features John Rebus investigating the gruesome murder of an off-duty Scottish oilman. Amidst his investigation, the media spotlight and an internal affairs investigation brings to light potential corruption on the part of Rebus' old partner and mentor over an old case. To top things off, the police of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow are reeling from yet another killing by a serial killer known as Johnny Bible, who is committing copycat crimes of a similar killer from the sixties and seventies named Bible John.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. On the one hand I really enjoyed it, and felt like Rankin had crafted a well-thought out primary plot. The challenge for me was that there were so many sub-plots that sometimes it was hard to keep them all straight. They seemed to distract more than help the flow of the story. One minute Rebus was in Edinburgh. The next he was in Aberdeen, and then suddenly he's off to Glasgow. John Rebus spends what seems like a third of the novel in his car.

An interesting note about Black and Blue is the premise of the original serial killer from the sixties and seventies. I did a little research after reading this novel and found that there actual was a serial killer named Bible John, who terrorized Glasgow in the sixties and seventies. Rankin often does this in his novel, integrating a real life event into the story and grounding his characters more into a Scotland that people can relate to.

Overall, Black and Blue was a good novel, and a strong addition to the John Rebus series, but I don't feel like it was the best. I would still recommend it to anyone who is an Ian Rankin fan, but don't make this a starting place. I'd more recommend trying one of my favorite John Rebus novels, The Falls.

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