Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Strip Jack - Ian Rankin

I find Ian Rankin’s Strip Jack, the fourth book in his Inspector Rebus series to be particularly interesting because of the way it so consistently portrays the lighter side of the inspector’s personality. John Rebus, as most readers think of him, is a rather gloomy, cynical man both in his personal life and in the way he views everything he sees on the job. That is certainly the way I’ve come to think of the man based on the dozen or so Rebus books that I’ve now read. But that’s not at all the John Rebus that readers get in Strip Jack.

 

Instead, this John Rebus has a great, dry sense of humor; he’s a man who loves puns and other word play, and he displays that sense of humor so consistently that it seems to annoy his superiors to no end, especially those who are trying to get under his skin or reprimand him just before Rebus throws one of his pun-bombs in their direction. Rankin, who wrote this and two other Rebus novels while living in France, in fact, remarks on the overall tone of the novel in his “Introduction” to the three-book collection (Three Great Novels) that includes Strip Jack:

 

“I think the resulting novel is one of the lighter additions to the series. There’s not too much darkness; not too much blood. It was my attempt at a more traditional whodunnit. Maybe my surroundings were to blame. I’d exchanged high-pressure London and its daily grind for rolling hills, time and space. It couldn’t last and it didn’t.”

 

Ian Rankin
The Jack being “stripped” in Strip Jack is MP Gregor Jack, and the stripping process begins when the MP is caught in an Edinburgh brothel during a late night police raid on the establishment. Rebus begins to think something is unusual about Jack’s bad luck of being there exactly when cops show up as soon as he notices that all of the big, national newspapers have reporters and photographers outside the house but none of the local papers are even there. It’s obvious to Rebus that someone has tipped off the London papers in advance of the raid. And, Rebus being Rebus, that doesn’t sit well with him. Also, Rebus being Rebus, the detective that makes him curious enough to start poking around in MP Jack’s personal life to see if he can figure out who is working so hard to disgrace the man and strip him of everything he holds dear, including his political office.

 

Rebus, always willing to risk the ire of his departmental superiors, immediately begins his own “unofficial” investigation into the leak by stopping by the MP’s home to warn him about the tactics of the mob of reporters who are gathered at the man’s front gate. Then, more officially, he starts yanking on threads and following where those threads take him.

 

Bottom Line: Strip Jack, because of its lighter tone, will likely draw mixed reactions from longtime fans of the series. This John Rebus is not the man those readers know so well by now, and they may even find the character to be a little jarring in this iteration. The mystery surrounding Gregor Jack, his friends and his enemies, is not treated lightly by Rankin, however, and in the end, it is a satisfying one.

7 comments:

  1. I haven't read Ian Rankin in so long. I do remember the couple of books I read being generally dark.

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    1. Rebus in his most common incarnation is a pretty gloomy and cynical fellow.

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  2. I think I need to catch up in some of the other series I'm reading before I begin reading this one! ;D

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    1. You should try to sample it sometime, Lark. It may or may not be for you, but Rankin is really good.

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  3. I like it when an author shows us a different side to the personality of a character I assume I know well.

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    1. Me, too, Cathy, but I'm positive that if Rebus had been this chilled and happy all the way through the series, I wouldn't still be reading the books. Rankin made the right decision to go back to the darker side of the character, I think.

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