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by Ian Rankin
Orion, September 2005
256 pages
ISBN: 0752873091

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Is there a crime fiction fan out there who has never heard of Ian Rankin, the creator of Inspector Rebus? Unless you are one of those rare beings, you are going to have to put away any ideas and preconceptions about the writing of this gifted author before plunging into THE FLOOD, Rankin's first published novel.

In an introduction, Rankin warns the reader that THE FLOOD is a young man's book, that it is not a crime novel (well, there IS crime within it)and that it is about 'the perils and pitfalls of growing up.' Apart from these caveats, the style is quite different from that in the author's subsequent mystery fiction output.

The narrative begins with ten-year-old Mary Miller fiercely protecting her doll, Missie Lizzie, from a cruel attack by boys older than her brother Tom. They steal Missie Lizzie and, in an effort to seize back her beloved toy, Mary finds herself pushed into the 'hot burn' a chemical laden stream running from the coal mine on which the townspeople rely for their livelihoods. Mary nearly drowns. During the night following the incident, Mary has what will later prove to be a prophetic dream. While the girl sleeps, her hair turns silver.

When Mary is 15, she has a baby, Sandy. She never discloses the identity of the boy's father and he grows up knowing he is the child of someone the townsfolk call a witch. Subsequent to the death of her parents, Mary is solely responsible for her son but he is fortunate that several of his peers decide to be his friend.

When Sandy is the age his mother was when he was born, he meets Robbie, an adolescent tinker, and Robbie's sister Rian in a deserted house. Then follows a strange and distressing time for the boy.

This is a beautifully-written book. The prose could almost be described as poetic; it is certainly evocative of images both bright and gloomy. The agonies of adolescence, of discrimination and misery are tellingly evoked. The characters are realistically drawn and their lives convincingly portrayed.

Rankin confesses that people saw his own birthplace of Cardenden in the fictional village of Carsden. If the simile is accurate, it is a boon to the world of literature that he was able to escape the village and find his feet as a very successful writer in the larger world.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, August 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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