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Issue 39 - The king of tartan noir

Whisky Magazine Issue 39
May 2004

 

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The king of tartan noir

Ian Rankin's celebrated detective John Rebus is a hard talking whisky man. Jefferson Chase introduces him to a new audience

British readers won't need much of an introduction to Ian Rankin and his alter ego detective chief inspector John Rebus. The Rebus series is not only a fixture in the bestseller lists; several instalments have also been filmed for television dramas.

But the Rankin bandwagon is only just starting to get rolling outside the United Kingdom, and I'd like to jump on it and beat the drum for this talented Scotsman, described by American crime writer and violence addict James Ellroy as the king of ‘tartan noir'

Tartan noir? Well yes. Rebus is Edinburgh through and though, and that includes, of course, a taste for single malts, preferably in that city's Oxford Bar.

In The Falls, one of Rankin's more recent works, Rebus spends a good portion of the novel in various states of inebriation and even turns up drunk at one of the main suspects' apartment.

Rebus had accepted a black coffee from David Costello, popped two paracetemol from their foil shroud and washed them down. Middle of the
night, but Costello hadn't been asleep. He'd made for an off-licence at some point: the bag was lying on the floor, the half-bottle of Bell's sitting not far from it, top missing but only a couple of decent measures down. It was a non-drinker's idea of how you handled a crisis – you drank whisky, but you had to buy some first, and no point lashing out on a whole bottle.

As you can see, The Falls is tightly plotted– in both senses of the word.

The story revolves around the murder of a young hei...

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