After having read the first in the Inspector John Rebus series by Ian Rankin, Knots and Crosses (previous review), let’s compare it to the twelfth in the series, The Falls.
The Falls* by Ian Rankin
Summary: Art history student Philippa “Flip” Balfour goes missing and her rich parents immediately pull strings to make the case a priority. When the new Chief Super Gill Templer assigns Detective Inspector John Rebus the task of checking out a doll found in a casket, he’s pretty sure it isn’t important to the case. Or is it?
What is similar between the two books:
Ian Rankin knows how to write a perfect first line. The first line of Knots and Crosses was eerie:
The girl screamed once, only the once.
For The Falls, it is intriguing:
‘You think I killed her, don’t you?’
As to be expected, both novels are set in Edinburgh, Scotland and the surrounding countryside. Also, both novels give a detailed picture of the inner workings of Scottish police departments.
Once again John Rebus is only one cog in a much larger investigative machine. Once again others, particularly his female colleagues, point him in the right direction or dig up pertinent clues.
Another similarity between the two novels is that there are puzzles to figure out, which makes sense because the main character’s last name “Rebus” is a type of word puzzle. In Knots and Crosses the names of the previous victims is a puzzle/clue. In The Falls, the puzzles — part of a role-playing game — are a central thread of the story. Regardless of his last name, in both novels it isn’t Rebus who works out most of the puzzles, but other characters.
What is different about the two books:
An obvious difference between the two books is the length. Knot and Crosses is a respectable 256 pages. At 399 pages, The Falls is significantly longer. Much of the difference in length is due a substantially more complex plot (details would be spoilers).
Some of the differences may be due to the fact that the two books were by different publishers. In Knots and Crosses, there are double quotation marks around the dialogue. In The Falls, the dialogue is set off by single quotations marks. Single quotation marks are more common in British novels.
Another difference is the theme of promotion and retirement within the police department. When Chief Super Farmer retires, John Rebus visits him. He notices how tidy Farmer’s house is and realizing he might be at loose ends, asks Farmer to help out with small pieces of the investigation. An older Rebus looks ahead and is a bit frightened about what his own retirement might look like, whereas in the first book he looked back on what had happened when he was young.
Keeping a mystery series moving ahead is no small achievement. Ian Rankin does a wonderful job creating compelling, complex characters and a multi-layered plot. As Rankin and his characters mature, we can only imagine what lies ahead.