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Fleshmarket Close   by Ian Rankin

Read: 2005-07-07 Reviewed: 2006-01-28
Re-read factor:

Another installment in the John Rebus series. If it was the first one I had read, I would probably pronounce it brilliant and look forward to reading the other fifteen. As it is, the same old formula is wearing thin on me.

As you would expect, the plot is complicated. A bunch of loosely connected criminals are bailing asylum seekers out of a detention centre and putting them to slave labour. To keep them in line, a stunt is pulled where two research skeletons of a mother and baby are buried beneath a concrete floor; the asylum seekers being made to believe that they are the remains of murdered seekers who have stepped out of line. The owner of the bar above the cellar is in on this, but decides to uncover the skeletons to generate publicity for the premises, which are on one of Edinburgh's `ghost tours'. And so our intrepid detective steps into a murder inquiry.

On a different thread, another detective is looking for a missing girl, who had been working in a lap dancing club. The person who had previously murdered the girl's sister is just out of prison, and is subsequently murdered.

Finally, two murders take place on an infamous housing estate. The first murder triggers an investigation by a journalist, who becomes the second victim. It turns out the illegal immigrants were being housed on the estate.

And so, with a lot of gritty realism, the team of detectives, plus someone from the immigration service, set about pulling all the evidence and facts together and solving all the crimes. As usual with Rankin, the characters are superbly brought to life, the sense of relative location is missing, and the atmosphere is a little thin. The plot is ingenious, and the resolution satisfying, though in this case not the best that Rankin has done. The insights into the plight of the asylum seekers does add a little extra interest to the book.

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