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Bombs are exploding in the streets of London, but life seems to have planted more subtle booby-traps for Miles Flint. Miles is a spy. His job is to watch and to listen, then to report back to his superiors, nothing more. The job, affording glimpses into the most private lives of his victims, appeals to Miles. He doesn't lust after promotion, and he doesn't want action. He wants, just for once, not to botch a case. Having lost one suspect - with horrific consequences - Miles becomes too involved with another, a young Irish woman. His marriage seems ready to crumble to dust. So does his home.
But Miles is given one last chance for redemption - a trip to Belfast, which quickly becomes a flight of terror, murder and shocking discoveries. But can the voyeur survive in a world of violent action?
Read by Tom Cotcher
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While Rendell, James and Walters jostle for the position of Britain's Crime Queen, things are much more straightforward when it comes to male writers: the appearance of Ian Rankin's early thriller Watchman is a reminder that Rankin is securely at the top of the tree in terms of sales, and pretty near the upper echelons in critical acclaim. His series featuring the troubled DI Rebus, with its brilliantly realised urban Scottish settings, has consolidated a powerful reputation, although later entries in the sequence may have lacked the sharpness of their predecessors.
Watchman is something of a collector's item among Rankin enthusiasts--out of print for 15 years, this stand-alone thriller (not featuring the doughty Rebus) has been changing hands on the Internet for very large amounts--but now it's possible to catch up with one of Rankin's most intriguing books at a reasonable price.
Miles Flint is low-level operative in the world of espionage, with a watching brief that satisfies him perfectly; he's not a man who craves more active duty. But IRA bombs are wreaking havoc on the British mainland, and Miles finds himself with all kinds of problems. His professional career is in trouble, as is his marriage--his involvement with a seductive Irish woman is problematical, and his attempts to avoid a persistent newspaperman are failing. Miles is sent to Belfast, where he finds that his job is much more than merely watching people; the stakes are very high (UK security being the trump card now), and his life has become a ploy in a dangerous game.
There are shades here of two of Rankin's illustrious predecessors in the thriller genre, Gerald Seymour and Len Deighton, but Rankin (even at this early stage of his career) was very much his own man. Miles is a distinctive and conflict-filled protagonist--very different from Rebus, though sharing a messy private life--and the action is handled with pulse-racing panache. The espionage genre was not to prove Rankin's métier, but this sole effort is essential for Rankin fans--and that means most of us. --Barry ForshawReview:
Very impressive...If you're worried you'll miss the comfortable presence of Jack Rebus, don't - this is totally involving stuff, delivered with the kind of panache that hallmarks the Edinburgh-set thrillers. --The Daily Express
This splendid piece of espionage fiction has not worn badly with age, nor does it seem the work of a yet immature talent. Brilliantly subdued, it has the air of a le Carre... Atmospheric and subtle, Watchman shows just how long Rankin has been our best genre novelist. --The Good Book Guide
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