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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 43.
- Review Date: 2007-09-24
- Reviewer: Staff
Fans of Rankin's Inspector Rebus series (The Naming of the Dead, etc.) will welcome the U.S. publication of his second novel, a stand-alone spy thriller from 1988 that contains Rebus-like elements. Miles Flint has been a successful middle manager in the shadowy ranks of British intelligence until recent mistakes, including a botched surveillance of an Arab assassin, put his career and reputation in jeopardy. Suspecting that the killer evaded him because of a tip from one of his own, Miles launches his own mole hunt, casting himself in a role that's uncomfortably active for him—especially as his search leads back to his wife, Sheila. And Miles's doings seemingly strike a nerve within the organization, getting him dispatched on a perilous IRA bombing-related mission. Rankin creates plausible and fascinating characters in a manner that seems effortless (as in Miles's tic of comparing people to different kinds of beetles). While the elements of the denouement will strike some as gimmicky, it's clear that if Rankin had devoted his gifts to spy fiction rather than mysteries, he would still have been a hit. (Dec.)
Mystery of the month
Scottish writer Ian Rankin is a major successhe has won virtually every award available to a mystery author: the Edgar Award, a Gold Dagger Award for fiction (and its counterpart, the Diamond Dagger for career excellence) and the Chandler-Fulbright Award. What may come as a surprise, though, is that his latest book was written some 20 years back, and it is nonetheless still good enough to win this month's Tip of the Ice Pick Award. Watchman features British spy Miles Flint, a markedly different sort of agent than, say, James Bond. Flint is a watcher from behind darkened windows, a listener to tapped phone lines. When a lapse in judgment results in the death of a valued source, his shot at redemption comes in the form of a seemingly routine mission to Belfast (the book was written when "The Troubles" were still in full swing). The mission quickly turns deadly, and Flint realizes that he has been set up by someone in his organization. Watchman keeps the reader on pins and needles from page one.