Summer Reading: Fleshmarket Alley

Cover Fleshmarket Alley

So, I’ve just finished Fleshmarket Alley (my edition is american it seems, and the original title is Fleshmarket Close) by Ian Rankin, which features one of my favorite characters in crime fiction, John Rebus, Detective Inspector in Edinburgh, Scotland. Rebus is a gruff, unpolished, obstinate alcoholic who doesn’t play well on teams, but who underneath it all,  is caring and persistent.

Rebus ‘s old station St. Leonard’s Police Station has shut down it’s CID office and alongside Siobhan Clarke, Rebus has been relocated to Gayfield Square Police Station where no one knows what to do with him, so he is lent out to West End, sent to Knoxland, a high-rise dead-end world, where a man has been found stabbed to death. The dead man has no name, no identification and no witnesses are willing to step forward neither to testify to his identity or to what happened.

Meanwhile Siobhan Clarke has two cases going, a sister of a rape victim, who committed suicide some years back, has gone missing and Siobhan reluctantly agrees to look into the disappearance. At the same time she is curious about the skeletons of a woman and an infant, dug out of the cellar floor of a pub in Fleshmarket Ally. The skeleton of the baby is fake and female skeleton is an old teaching skeleton, that disappeared a few years back from the university’s medical faculty.

This is Ian Rankin at his very finest. Plots weave in and out of each other, there’s a full set of supporting cast to compliment Rebus and Siobhan, who reveal new tidbits about themselves.

A major theme in Fleshmarket Alley is racism/immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and how Scotland treat those who for various reasons seek a new life there. The descriptions of Knoxland are strikingly familiar to what I see and hear daily in Denmark.  Immigrants are unwelcomed, whether they are legal or not, treated with suspicion and a scary off-handed disdain, people’s fear turn right nasty, when it comes to people with different cultures. And the descriptions of how Scotland as a nation treats the illegal immigrants, both as a group and as individuals, in the system and in the old jail Whitemire are absolutely horrifying and sadly recognizable.

Fleshmarket Alley (Close) is a great book, engaging, and thought-provoking.  It is well worth a read, and once I am over my little Summer Reading project here, I think I’ll tuck into the other Rebus books gathering dust on my shelves.

Next up is vN by Madeline Ashby.

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