When I classify my reading preferences I do not put myself in the mystery reader category, I always say I'm a fantasy reader. I have noticed that there are a few similarities between mystery readers and fantasy readers, most notably the volume of books. I'm confident in my opinion that fantasy readers tend to read a lot of fantasy books. I'm just as confident that mystery readers read a lot of mystery books. My proof - take a good look at the set up of your local book shop and you'll notice the large sections dedicated to mystery and fantasy (they are not mixed up in the general 'fiction' section).
Being in the fantasy camp, I have only dipped my toe in the ocean of mystery books. A few mediocre books is all I have read. This led me to think all 'mystery' gendered books were cheap, cheesy, cookie-cutter non-masterpieces. Having been around the block, or bookshelf, in the fantasy section I realize there are just as many cheap, cheesy, cookie-cutter fantasy books out there. So, a fantasy novice could easily stumble upon a few bad fantasies and write off the entire genre. It's as if you need a guide to lead you through the vast selection of books in the section. I was lucky, I had a guide who sent me towards Rankin...and since then I've polished off a few of his books with glee. This guide was a short term member of my now defunct bookclub who only chose one book and it was by Ian Rankin. He mentioned liking the detective 'Rebus' at one of our bookclub meeting and was met by blank stares (as the majority of the readers were fantasy readers). Who was this 'Rebus'? Well we were about to find out.
Rebus, a maverick in all ways. A police detective who works for the Scottish police in Edinburgh. He has a problem with authority and is often bending the rules to get things done. He is a copper who fraternizes with criminals on occasion, in seedy bars where he indulges in his massive drinking problem. His life is a mess. But, under this tough skinned exterior is a good cop, who always gets to the bottom of a case (typically a murder) no matter what it takes. He is that gruff character who you question the entire novel and end up applauding at the end. That is who 'Rebus' is.
In this book, Resurrection Men, Rebus is sent under cover internally to bust some corrupt officers. The only problem is Rebus does not have the best/cleanest past, so his previous cover ups are popping up all over the place...he could end up 'busting' himself in this process! I won't give much away by saying he eventually succeeds in getting these corrupt cops, but, it's an adventure getting there...and seeing how it all ends up (as in, who dies!).
The thing I like about Rankin books is all of the Scottish slang thrown in. You get a wonderful taste of Scottish culture and even the odd description of scenery (other than the inside of a bar). There are great explanations on how Scots are different than the English, which ignorant me didn't know anything about...what? They all live on the same island right? What really surprised me was how much instant coffee they drink.
My only concern with this book was the number of characters. There were just too many; Rebus and his 'sidekick' Siobhan of course, then a few murder victims from the cases they are working on, four or five co-workers, then the suspects which number a few, then the handful of underworld denizen (snitches, gangster leaders, prostitutes etc). This tactic of using a lot of characters is a double edged sword. On the one side, there are lots of characters that can be used in a variety of different ways to further the story along or make it that much deeper (and hence, a more fulfilling read). On the other hand, keeping track of thirty names can get kind of confusing, especially when you have an ignorant reader like me that keeps mixing up city names with people's names. So, this is not a book to read in short burst or when you are very tired. It is best to set aside some quality time and make an effort to concentrate on memorizing all the names.