Knots and Crosses

The John Rebus detective series set in Edinburgh has been successful since Knots and Crosses came out in 1987. This coming October, book number twenty-two is to be published. Rankin has published numerous other books as well as plays and short stories.

John Rebus is a man who believes in justice but is so flawed it is sometimes hard to see him as the protector of the public. In this case, the killer picks him out to receive a note after each murder. The first reads: THERE ARE CLUES EVERYWHERE. The envelope also contains a piece of twine tied in a knot. Rebus discards it as a crank. The next has a note and two matchsticks tied in the form of a cross. It still makes no sense to him.

We readers know the notes are from the killer–we learn that on page one–but we are as clueless as Rebus. It is not until about the two-thirds mark in the book that we receive the information we need to understand the notes. The rest of the book is about finding the killer.

I confess that the first third seemed to be going nowhere. Rebus was lost and so was I. He spent too much time remembering his youth with no apparent connection to the case. By sticking with it, I eventually saw the connections.

An interesting feature of the Rebus character is his desire to connect with God. He is not sure God exists but he wants Him to. He prays to God in his down times. That characteristic is at odds with the rest of the man–a man who drinks, smokes, has no friends, and regards most people as lepers.

The library copy I read is only 179 pages, so this is a short novel. It is a good read at, say, three and a half stars.

Mike Lawrence

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

This book is the first of 18, so far, of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes investigations. This book was published in 1994.

The story begins in 1915 when fifteen-year-old Mary stumbled on Holmes as he was watching bees gather pollen. Holmes was retired and enjoying the countryside after living most of his life in London. In that meeting, Holmes saw a person of mental equality with himself. Holmes, by the way, would have been sixty that year.

During the rest of the summer, their relationship turned into an apprenticeship which carried on through the remainder of the war. Mary did attend school, including Oxford (a women’s college of course) in 1917 and 1918.

In all that time Mary practiced the skills she learned in the summer months until Holmes allowed her to assist him in some cases–he was not as retired as he told everyone he was.

The majority of the book places both teacher and student in mortal danger as an unknown adversary pulls their strings like a puppet master.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes you will like this book. Laurie King was inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars for her writing, even though she is an American.

An interesting feature of the story is that Mary Russell seeks a degree from Oxford in theology, something Holmes considers a waste of time. Ms. King does have an honorary doctorate in theology. I hope the following books maintain Russell’s desire to know her Jewish heritage, including the religious heritage.

A good book.

Mike Lawrence