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(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky SEP 5, 2005)
In Ian Rankin's Witch Hunt, the chase is as compelling as the outcome. "Witch" is the code name for a female terrorist who has wreaked havoc during her bloody career. She is an expensive hired assassin, and the only person who has come close to catching her is former British Intelligence Agent Dominic Elder. Elder has a huge "W" shaped scar on his back as a souvenir of his close encounter with Witch. There is fresh evidence that Witch has resurfaced and may be planning to kill a high-profile target in the near future.
Joining Elder in the hunt are two men from Special Branch named Greenleaf and Doyle. In addition, two novices, John Barclay and Dominique Herault, of British and French Intelligence respectively, are also eagerly putting their heads together to help find Witch before she strikes again.
Rankin concentrates on the personalities of his characters as much as he does on plot. Elder is bitter that Witch has eluded him in the past and he is anxious to get revenge. He is allowed back into the case partly because his former boss, Joyce Parry, still has feelings for Elder, who used to be her lover. Greenleaf and Doyle are uneasy partners who don't particularly care for one another. Barclay and Herault are both young and eager, looking for adventure and finding it in their first major investigation.
The search for Witch is complicated and time-consuming. It stretches across England, Scotland, France, and Germany. Every lead is followed up, especially since a summit is about to take place in London, with many dignitaries expected to attend. Unfortunately, Witch is so quick and clever that she always manages to stay a step ahead of her pursuers. Will they be able to run her to ground before she attempts her next assassination?
Although it is a bit long and meanders occasionally, I enjoyed Witch Hunt. Rankin explores the intricacies of both police and intelligence work, showing that patience, persistence, and luck are all factors in a successful outcome. Witch is a fascinating uber-assassin, beautiful, changeable, brilliant, and ruthless. Rankin takes pains to humanize her, however, and we learn how she came to be one of the world's most sought-after killers. The ending is a nail-biter, filled with non-stop action and a few surprises to keep the reader off-balance. All in all, its dry humor, varied and well-drawn characters, sharp dialogue, and engrossing depiction of investigative techniques make Witch Hunt a winner.
- Amazon readers rating: from 9 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Witch Hunt at Hachette Book Group
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Inspector Rebus Mysteries:
- Knots and Crosses (1987)
- Hide and Seek (1991)
- Wolfman (1992) (published as Tooth and Nail in US)
- A Good Hanging (1992)
- Strip Jack (1992)
- The Black Book (1993)
- Mortal Causes (1994)
- Let It Bleed (1996)
- Black and Blue (1997)
- The Hanging Garden (1998)
- Dead Souls (1999)
- Set in Darkness (2000)
- The Falls (2001)
- Resurrection Men (2002, February 2003 in US)
- A Question of Blood (February 2004)
- Fleshmarket Alley (February 2005)
- The Naming of the Dead (April 2007)
- Exit Music (September 2008)
Short Story Collections:
- A Good Hanging and Other Stories (1992) (Inspector Rebus stories )
- Hebert In Motion and other stories (1997)
- Rebus: The Early Years (1999)
- Rebus: The St. Leonard's Years (2001)
- Beggars Banquet: Stories (2002) (21 stories, 7 include Inspector Rebus)
- The Flood (1986)
- Watchman (1991)
- Death is Not The End (1998, 2000 in US)
- Doors Open (January 2010)
- The Complaints (March 2011)
Originally written as Jack Harvey:
- Witch Hunt (1993) *
- Bleeding Hearts (1994) *
- Blood Hunt (1995) *
*All three thrillers are published in The Jack Harvey Novels (2000)
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- The official Web site for Ian Rankin with good book information
- Visit more on Ian Rankin at this MostlyFiction.com page
- BookReporter.com review of Witch Hunt
- BookLoons review of Witch Hunt
- MostlyFiction.com review of Exit Music
- MostlyFiction.com review of Doors Open
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About the Author:
Ian Rankin was born in 1960 in the Scottish village of Cardenden and was educated locally. While young, he dabbled in creating comic books and then writing music lyrics and by the time he went onto Edinburgh University, his poetry had already won several prizes. While at university, Ian turned from poetry to the short story and again won several literary prizes. One of the short stories until it become a novel. In fact, when he should have been studying towards a PhD in English Literature he was writing his first three novels, the last of these became his first Inspector Rebus novel.
Ian married Miranda Harvey in 1986 and moved to London where he worked in journalism, rising from Editorial Assistant at montly magazine call "Hi-Fi Review" to editor. He continued writing novels during this time experimenting with various genre.
In 1988 Ian was elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also winner of the 1991-92 Chandler-Fulbright Award, one of the world's most prestigious detective fiction prizes (funded by the estate of Raymond Chandler).
Ian now divides his time between Edinburgh, London and France, with his wife and two sons.