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A Good Hanging
Penzler Pick, January 2002: Ian Rankin is now the United Kingdom's bestselling crime writer. His 15 police procedurals featuring the dour Scottish Detective Inspector John Rebus are beginning, at last, to attract a devoted--and deserved--following in this country. St. Martin's has just published this, Rankin's 1992 collection of short stories, and I can't think of a better way to be introduced to John Rebus and his creator. Dubbed "Tartan Noir" by James Ellroy, Rankin's tales are set in Edinburgh. Not in the beautiful streets that tourists see (those cobbled sidewalks leading up to Edinburgh Castle), but in its dark, damp recesses where crime flourishes. That's where Rebus works. The crime and criminals there make Rebus's job a tough one, and they also offend his sense of decency and order. These 12 stories tell of mystery, suffering, and mayhem, which Rebus alone of all the detectives on the force, with his remarkable deductive skills, can solve. In "Being Frank," a homeless man, from his unique perspective on the park bench, is able to give Rebus the information he needs to break up a scam by local ne'er-do-wells. Crimes gone unsolved for 20 years, religious sightings, lovers crossed, and tales of revenge all come under the jaundiced eye of the very talented Rebus. Even 10 years ago, when he was writing these stories, Rankin was a writer of great gifts. Time has borne out this promise. So it is easy to predict that, once you have sampled these short cases, you will become one of the many readers eagerly awaiting another Rebus novel from this sensitive and enormously talented young writer. --Otto Penzler