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Fleshmarket Alley    by Ian Rankin order for
Fleshmarket Alley
by Ian Rankin
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Detective Inspector John Rebus joins an investigation at the Knoxland housing-scheme - built 'apparently from papier mache and balsa wood' and a dumping ground for addicts, the unhinged and immigrants - because his bosses don't know what to do with him (there are clear signs they'd like him to think 'of chucking it in.') In this area where racial tension is high and predators are many, a tan-skinned man has been stabbed to death.

Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke has felt a little uncomfortable with Rebus since he kissed her at the end of A Question of Blood. In this latest episode, Siobhan is embroiled in the search for a young woman, whose sister's vicious rape she investigated years before - the sister committed suicide. The parents ask Siobhan for help finding their remaining daughter. This case heats up when the rapist, recently released from prison, is murdered. At the same time, Rebus and Siobhan are both called to the discovery of skeletons (covered in concrete) during renovation work in Fleshmarket Close.

Rebus discovers a connection between the Knoxland murder and the Whitemire detention centre, in which asylum seekers are held. A prickly romance grows between the DI and Caro Quinn, an artist/activist who keeps a protest vigil outside Whitemire. As the case leads him to more and more examples of the exploitation of illegal immigrants, Rebus muses that there's 'More than one kind of flesh market ...' Complicating matters are a slimy journalist, a medical student prank, a black Immigration official, and the DI's old nemesis, Cafferty. A drugs squad team that has it in for Rebus supplies comic relief.

Over the ten days duration of the novel, Ian Rankin uses Rebus and Siobhan to pull together his plot threads of skeletons, murders, the missing girl, and illegals. Along the way, he vividly and objectively portrays the societal tension and prejudice that results in hate crimes, and the difficult situations in which refugees and other immigrants find themselves. As always, Ian Rankin gives us an excellent, thoughtful read in Fleshmarket Alley.

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