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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:three and a half moon gifSt. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-20610-0
Ahhh, I appreciate a mystery writer who stashes the dastardly deed-doer right under the readers nose, then wipes said nose in a trail of red herring and misdirections. Ian Rankin sends noses, I mean readers, sniffing along just such a trail of clues in his latest Inspector Rebus mystery, The Falls. The suspenseful trail leads the inspector and colleagues on a chase across the Scottish Highlands and out into cyber space.

Book: Ian Ranking, the FallsSo many fascinating elements come together in this book: characters whose lives would fill juicy biographies; a granite, unforgiving Scottish setting that casts dread and doom; a mystery with as many tentacles as an octopus; and a cunning story teller who pulls it altogether into a story that lingers long after the last page.

In The Falls, Inspector John Rebus investigates a MisPer or Missing Person case. Philippa Balfour, a 20-year-old University of Edinburgh art history student and daughter of a wealthy banker, never arrived for an evening of fun and food with friends. So unlike her, said her boyfriend David Costello. Rebus eyes the boyfriend with suspicion, knowing that often the spouse, family or closest friend ultimately turns out to be the culprit. He retraces the missing girl's last days while Detective Constable Siobhan Clarke searches Philippa's computer e-mails for cyber clues. Philippa played a game and deciphered messages from the Quizmaster, a mysterious bloke who just might know Philippa's whereabouts. Siobhan plays his game. She follows the same clues as Philippa and may land in the same danger as the missing woman.

Meanwhile Rebus follows a lead to a tiny coffin found by the side of the Falls, near Philippa's home. The coffin leads to a collection of similar artifacts exhibited at the Museum of Scotland and prized by the museum curator, Jean Burchill. But these puzzles, coffins and cyber clues lead in diverse directions until one element ties them together.

Book: Ian Ranking, Black and BlueRankin creates a multi-layered character in Detective Inspector John Rebus. True to his name, this man of few words and deep thoughts puzzles all who know him. A likeable old timer who sees retirement on the horizon, Rebus struggles with his demons and turns too often to drink. A lone wolf, the inspector must make the transition to team player. But Rebus never played well with others.

Keeping the various characters straight proves slightly problematic. Many characters and too many generic names people this book. But each name reflects the character's personality or perhaps the author's sense of humor -- Sandy Gates? Nevertheless, The Falls heads my list of favorite contemporary British detective novels.

Dawn Goldsmith

A multi-published writer of non-fiction and short stories, Dawn Goldsmith also reviews mass market books for Publishers Weekly.

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