I had read my last Ian Rankin book a long time ago, and as far as I remember that one was a collection of short stories, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. And, if I stretch my mind even further back to the novel that I had read before that, I can hardly remember its name or what it was about. In short, Ian Rankin, though a celebrated author had never really put a solid mark on my reading life with his creations. I can say I hate the books, but I don’t find them overtly enjoying, as was the case with THE BLACK BOOK, the fifth instalment in the John Rebus series.
The plot takes us to Edinburgh where a colleague of Rebus gets brutally assaulted outside a restaurant. Rebus takes up the cause and finds a black book belonging to the colleague which contains cryptic messages related to crimes mostly unsolved. The victim’s ex-partner suspects that the book and its contents are the reason for the assault. Rebus without the authority, takes it upon his own shoulders to find out the truth behind the book’s messages and solve some unsolved cases. Running parallel like a loop line is a case where Rebus is ordered to install surveillance on a crooked money lender and a butcher gets a visit from a stabbed relative and Rebus is given the case to solve. And like a true loop line these two lines comes and joins the main line at the very end thereby leaving no strings loose.
But, the novel didn’t match up to its blurb. The blurb suggested a high tension crime thriller with dark crimes and darker motives, but all I got was a slow moving mediocre book, which though not disappointing was never too enjoyable either. Rebus, not being my favourite protagonist, also didn’t help the cause. With his perpetual personal problems, and his issues with the senior officers the whole character gets stamped with a big label called “Cliched” and also another called “Its getting Boring”. The plot didn’t helped either. Filled with departmental politics, parallel sub plots and dangerous jumps in narrative between these plots, the book all the time felt like a chronicle of sorts from Rebus’ life, where in between all these personal issues he also managed to solve a crime. I love a book which contains a crime, detection and a solution, other side dishes in the form of personal issues and departmental politics never appealed to me.
Summing up, this book, like other Rankin novels I have read stayed true to the Rankin style, and in the process also managed to get the same response from me, which says, “Yeah, I did complete the book, but it took a lot of time, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it a lot.”