Rankin’s (Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2014, etc.) canny cop is as gray and dour as his Edinburgh beat, but he’s in fine form...

THE BEAT GOES ON

THE COMPLETE REBUS STORIES

Rebus fans, rejoice: here are one novella, two new stories, and 28 reprinted tales about veteran detective John Rebus.

This cross section of Rebus’ career includes a month-by-month account of his detective work, starting with “Playback,” a case that everyone but our hero considers open-and-shut. It’s followed by a tale of a homeless man providing Rebus with a valuable clue in “Being Frank”; a vision of Jesus that helps solve a murder in “Seeing Things”; an assist from Shakespeare in "A Good Hanging”; and the cycle’s final entry, in which an ex-con finds his own kind of peace at the year’s end in “Auld Lang Syne.” Christmas brings its offbeat crimes, too. "No Sanity Claus” shows how useful a holiday outfit can be for a small-time crook. In “St. Nicked,” a Yuletide heist takes an unexpected turn. And Rebus finds himself in a showdown at the Festival of Santas in “Penalty Claus.” In other previously published stories, the detective’s keen ear cracks a case in "Talk Show,” and his skill with crossword puzzles comes to the fore in “Trip Trap.” Rebus, generally a notorious rule flouter, is unusually conscientious in "Facing the Music.” The novella, Death Is Not the End, reunites Rebus with a childhood friend and an old flame. In "The Very Last Drop,” the recently retired Rebus takes on a ghost in a brewery. The first of the two new stories, "The Passenger,” concerns a woman who bought a one-way ticket on a solitary holiday, and the second shows the perennially hard-drinking Rebus running true to form when he’s up against “A Three-Pint Problem.”

Rankin’s (Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2014, etc.) canny cop is as gray and dour as his Edinburgh beat, but he’s in fine form in these clever, occasionally touching, and often wryly funny vignettes.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-29683-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY

One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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