Tag Archives: Standing in Another Man’s Grave

Ordinary Grace getting well-deserved accolades

ordinary-grace-200I read and reviewed William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace almost a year ago, noting at that time that I hoped the book would receive the recognition it deserves.   And here it is now, nominated for the Best Novel Edgar.   Hooray!  For those who have read Krueger’s Cork O’Connor mystery series, this standalone will be a revelation.

The book begins with a framing device, as Frank Drum recalls the summer of 1961, when he was 13 years old. Just one page long, this prologue sets the tone for the story that follows, a tragic story filled with loss and anguish.  And then the story begins, first person, as it happens.

Frank’s father, a Methodist minister, is a rock upon whom many lean. His mother dreams of a better, more fulfilling life for Frank’s sister Ariel, who is a talented pianist, accepted to Juilliard in the fall. And his younger brother, Jake, is the tag-along kid with a stutter under pressure. What unfolds is shocking: Ariel disappears. When her body is found in the river, suspicion lights on first one, then another of the town’s inhabitants, and Frank learns that many people are not as they seem, including Ariel herself. What Frank learns about betrayal, his family and his own capacity for understanding and forgiveness is astonishingly moving. Read the book for the mystery – it’s a good one. But you’ll remember it for the insights it offers and the emotions it evokes.

Let’s compare to the other nominees!

the humansMatt Haig’s The Humans is sci-fi, Ordinary Grace is a literary mystery.  The Humans is fun, while Ordinary Grace is real and sometimes painful.

sandrineSandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook keeps the reader guessing, but so does Ordinary Grace.   Both books are character-driven.   But Krueger’s book is beautiful, and Cook just strives for beauty.

best5Finally, Ian Rankin’s Standing in Another Man’s Grave.  You know I love me some Rebus.  The book is tightly plotted and also big on complex characters.  But Ordinary Grace has staying power.  Of the two, it’s the one you’ll remember long after you read it.


mwa_logoLunchbox Rankings: Best Novel

  1. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
  2. Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
  3. Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook
  4. The Humans by Matt Haig

Only two more books to go!  Don’t think I haven’t noticed that so far, each one I review moves to the top of the ranking.   Coincidence?  Fate?  We’ll see.

Rankin’s Ranking for Standing in Another Man’s Grave

best5The third nominee for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best Novel is, like Thomas H. Cook, no newcomer to the awards scene.   1998 brought a nomination of Black and Blue, an Inspector Rebus novel (didn’t win), but Rebus  brought home the Edgar for him in 2004 for Resurrection Men.   Now author Ian Rankin up again, this time for Standing in Another Man’s Grave.

I’ve been a Rebus fan since I discovered him in the early books, when he was a mid-career detective with a young daughter and an estranged wife, smoking too much, drinking too much, and spending way too much time on the job.  It’s 25 years later, and Rebus is retired but can’t leave the life behind – still working on the job, now as a civilian.  As always, Rebus does things his own way… as always, he wreaks havoc for himself and others…. and, as always, he gets results.

I reviewed the book when it first came out, you can read that review here.  Big thumbs up from me then.  On re-reading for the Edgars, my experience was just as positive, and I had the chance to revisit some of the reasons why.

The book’s plot is satisfyingly twisty, with a resolution most readers won’t see coming.   In addition to the suspense generated by the mystery itself, there is plenty of character-driven tension as well, as Rebus walks too close to the line for Internal Affairs officer Malcolm Fox.  Introduced as the protagonist in Rankin’s The Complaints, Fox couldn’t be more opposite to – or more suspicious of – John Rebus.  Fox is out to prove Rebus is dirty, but he’s got a softer spot for Rebus’ old pal Siobhan Clarke.  Both men hope that her relationship with Rebus won’t derail her successful career.    Plus, there’s an interesting side plot focusing on Rebus’ nemesis/frenemy, Big Ger Cafferty.   Cafferty may be sidelined, but he’s still active behind the scenes and it’s fun to see him out-maneuvered for once.

It’s a solid book in the series and ranks, in my eyes, about as high as Edgar-winning Resurrection Men.   Comparing Standing to Sandrine is challenging, as they are so different in type.  In many ways, Cook is attempting a deeper, more nuanced novel, but he doesn’t completely pull it off.  Standing in Another Man’s Grave is a classic police procedural, perfectly presented.  Therefore, Rankin ranks higher.

mwa_logoLunchbox Rankings: Best Novel

  1. Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
  2. Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook
  3. The Humans by Matt Haig

Rankin’s Rebus warmly welcomed

graveJohn Rebus, the prickly maverick hero of Ian Rankin‘s popular police procedurals, is back.  He’s getting up in age, wheezes a bit halfway up a staircase, but couldn’t handle retirement.  In Standing in Another Man’s Grave, Rebus is a civilian employee investigating cold cases.  But he has all his marbles, all his old tricks and all his old chums, including DI Siobhan Clarke and frenemy Gerry McCafferty.  And thank heavens for that.   The rough cop with the tender heart may be a cliche, but in Rankin’s rendering, it doesn’t feel like one.  No wonder his 2004 Rebus novel, Resurrection Men, won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Here’s the set-up:  Annette McKie, a 15-year-old girl from a crime-connected family, has disappeared.  She was last seen in a gas station off the highway, where she’d gotten off a bus to use the restroom.  Rebus isn’t investigating that crime, of course, as his unit’s focus is on cold cases.  But the publicity surrounding Annette’s disappearance spurs a visit by Nina Hazlett, whose daughter Sally disappeared under similar circumstances in 1999.  Rebus takes a close look, turning up evidence that there is a series of missing girls.   The new case and the old cases are merged, and Rebus is in the uncomfortable situation of being simultaneously the most experienced and knowledgable detective in the group and the one with the lowest standing.  How he plows ahead to solve the crimes through sheer will, insight, and manipulation is a joy to read.

As usual, the plot is knotty, the characters are complex, and Rebus treads a fine line, bending the rules but not breaking them.  He has a finely honed personal integrity.  My only reservation about the book is the insertion of Malcolm Fox, the protagonist of Rankin’s new series about a “complaints” (think Internal Affairs) investigator, into the plot.  I have previously reviewed the new series, and thought that although it was not spot on, it was getting good. In the current book, I felt that Fox is not fully fleshed out, and that his staunch belief through most of the book that Rebus’ style is inherently corrupt and that Rebus himself must be driven from the force, feels forced.  At the end of Standing in Another Man’s Grave, Rebus has put in for reinstatement into the CID – assuming he can pass the physical – and there is pretty heavy foreshadowing that Rankin plans continued Fox:Rebus clashes.    If he can make Fox a match for Rebus – which I doubt – I say, bring it on.