Saturday, January 10, 2009

Books Review: Rankin, Leon and Todd

Book Review: Mysteries by Ian Rankin [Scotland]
Donna Leon [Italy] and Charles Todd [England]

by Eric Green

Mysteries That Keep You at the Edge: and, Reflect the Culture and Socio-economics of the Countries.

Scotland/England Tooth and Nail, Ian Rankin. St. Martins. 1992.
Venice Friends in High Places. Donna Leon. Penguin. 2000/2008.
Old England Search the Dark. Charles Todd. St. Martins. 1999.

In Tooth and Nail, Ian Rankin's main man is Edinburgh inspector, John Rebus. In this mystery, one of Rankin's first, Inspector Rebus is assigned to travel from Edinburgh to London and work with inspector George Flight. This book has a number of entertaining points. Of course the serial killing aspects are first and foremost riveting. You are kept abreast of the killer's activities throughout the book, which is an aspect of the writing that is different and refreshing. There is no mystery in regard to who the killer is.

The other aspect that is equally entertaining is the interplay between the inspectors Rebus and Flight. The vast differences between Scotland and England are highlighted and enforced throughout the book. This, of course, in the main refers to the dialect phrasing used by both which both find it hard to understand each other. You would think the inspectors were from England and France.

In Friends in High Places, Commissario Guido Brunetti, Donna Leon's main man, is once again struggling against the bureaucracy of Venice as well as trying to find the killer. And, like with other Leon's series of mysteries, Brunetti enjoys sumptuous Italian meals prepared by Paolo his wife; and, trying to live a regular life with his two kids. The reader continues to learn more about life in Venice. Leon's books are mostly published in the 1990s and this one is no exception, 2000. Their publication and release in the US is a relatively new thing.

In this mystery reader's learn about the real estate preservation laws and policies in Venice; and, how they are both rigidly enforced for some; and, of course, enforced with favors and not a little bit of corruption, for others. Leon doesn't offer sweeping political reforms of the corruption that she unveils, but does bring a modicum of hope. The kind of hope that keeps Brunetti's at his job.

And, in Search the Dark, once again, Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge takes us through more anguish for the surviving English soldiers from the Somme. In this book, Rutledge goes to the English countryside again moving between a few small towns trying to solve a killing; and then another killing. He also weaves in the English aristocracy, of course, with all of their arrogance, wealth [real or mythic], and simple crudeness of power. This Todd mystery is particularly engaging with the character development used by Todd. The three woman involved in the intertwined mystery are each culpable in the killings and Todd does an excellent job in keeping at the edge of our seats….tuning pages more quickly as the books moves toward its end.

The interplay between Brunetti and Rutledge with their superiors is always a central part of these books. It probably mirrors all law enforcement detectives seeking to do their jobs against forces of stagnation.

While there is a predominance of male dominance in the Todd and Rankin books, women always play major roles. Leon, being a woman writer, while using a male detective, always has major roles for woman.

All three books are very much worth reading.