Friday, July 09, 2010

The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin .

The Hanging Garden is the 9th novel in the Detective Inspector John Rebus crime thriller series. There are 2 plots running in this novel, a suspected World War Two war criminal plus an organised crime gang warfare story. The war crimes center around Villefranche, in France with a character called Josef Linzstek, who may have changed his name to Joseph Lintz and was helped to a new life by the Rat Line . This novel explores the emotions of war crimes and the roles and responsibilities of the leaders and their followers. It also explores the many lobby groups who track down these criminals to expose the lies of their past. There is also the conspiracy of our governments to cover up these crimes, support those Rat Lines and make the reader wonder whose side our governments are on. You also read about the unseen criminal worlds at large that are ruled through violence and not market forces. These other worlds we are totally ignorant about which deal in drugs, sex and gambling. Added to this you read about a police force that is corrupt and is doing deals among the criminals, just to preserve the status quo.

The Hanging Garden is a full story with good plots and twists. There is a good and well explained ending to this story. There is also a quality Afterword to explain that Villefranche in this story is actually Oradour-sur-Glane in real history, where the original village was destroyed on 10 June 1944, when 642 of its inhabitants, including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company.

But it is not all war crimes and violent criminal gang warfare in The Hanging Garden. The title comes from The Cure's song "The Hanging Garden" and there are loads of musical references splattered across this book that add colour to this novel. The thoughts of DI John Rebus are enlightened by the addition of a song title and the artist to demonstrate his emotions at that time. This is not just about police work but also the philosophy of revenge and the mindset of criminals. There is also a lovely subtle humour running throughout this book.

I think The Hanging Garden is a good book and I will vote it 4 stars on Book Army . It has 411 pages and was written in 1998 although I purchased the omnibus (no pun intended!) edition published in 2009. I think it is so much better than Hide & Seek and this novel clearly shows the improvement to Ian Rankin's writing during those 5 years. I now know why The Hanging Garden is the first book in this onmibus publication, rather than Hide & Seek!
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