Rankin, Ian. The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories.

NY: Little Brown, 2015.

Rankin has published (so far) twenty-two novels featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus of Edinburgh, and they’ve mostly been quite good. But the author has also produced some thirty short stories about Rebus, most of them published originally in magazines and newspapers, often in the Christmas issue.

All of those, including two new stories for this volume, plus the novella-length “Death Is Not the End,” are brought together here for the first time.

The thing is, most of them are quite short, ten to twelve pages, and they tend to give the effect of being plot summaries of novels. A couple, like “Dead and Buried” and “Being Frank,” are mere incidents in Rebus’s personal or professional life, not even “stories,” but the others try to cover the entire plot, beginning to end, of what could have been an entire book. The effect is of being badly rushed. We never really get into Rebus’s head in any of those, never see any of the rest of his existence — which is what makes the full-length novels such good reads. This isn’t a bad book, and most Rebus fans will enjoy it, but Rankin evidently just isn’t as good at the short form.


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