Last week, my favourite literary character made a welcome return - John Rebus. Ian Rankin’s 23rd novel (including one book of short stories) featuring the dysfunctional, ex-police detective. I await each new story, trying to eek out my reading each night so as not to finish too soon. Loving police procedurals as I do, I also follow the life story of Rebus, his ex-side kick and now rising in the ranks herself Siobhan Clarke, and also Malcolm Fox, working first in complaints and actually investigating our own Rebus. Whilst I loved the case of the a body found in a car, missing for years, it didn’t move the personal story on enough for me. Testimonies of ex-job, including Rebus, were re-examined under today’s microscope, links to the ever-present local gangster, Big Ger Cafferty, hints at a love interest for Fox... I wanted more of this. More human interaction. I think what I actually want is a book with no mystery to solve. Just what Rebus is up to.
On the TV, John Hannah played Rebus for two series, replaced by Ken Stott. Whilst I loved Ken in the role and the series were actually better, Hannah rather matched the image I had in my head of Rebus.
Agatha Raisin, brought to life on TV after I'd read the majority of her books, is a middle-aged PR agent/now private detective living in the Cotswolds, with a disastrous love life and a penchant for almost being bumped off. The books always focus on an aspect of rural life, this one on bell ringing, with all the quirky village-types caricatured for comic effect. As usual, Dead Ringer did not disappoint; I usually don't try to second guess the murderer, rather I enjoy the storytelling which MC Beaton excels at.
On the TV, Ashley has gorgeous hair and an even more stunning wardrobe, and makes the TV series sumptuous to watch in its beautiful setting. Penelope Keith played her on the radio, which would seem to be a better fit for me. Perhaps I ought to seek out those old broadcasts.
Sophie Hannah's Poirot series answers the question, what do you do when your audience desire more stories, but the author died years ago, as did actually the main protagonist? Oh, just write more for the in between years!
I have now read two and am about to start the third, The Mystery of the Three Quarters. I don't want to talk about her writing style here, as it'd be cruel to compare hers to Agatha Christie's own. I know she receives a lot of bad press for her writing these days, but do you know what? I don't care. I spent my teens reading these novels and those of Miss Marple, especially after watching Joan Hickson beautifully portray her on TV. I'm a fan of stories. Not necessarily good writing. If the author makes me want to continue reading, they've done a good job.
On TV, who has played Marple better than Hickson? I have loved all the recent adaptations, as well as some old ones like Margaret Rutherford, but nothing beats Hickson's quiet, but knowing, character, using her knowledge of local villagers to aid solving the most curious of crimes. Is David Suchet the best Poirot? Certainly the most prolific. Ustinov and Branagh were great on the big screen, but Suchet is hard to beat. Has he formed my image of the little Belgian detective in the books when I re-read them now, or did he match Christie's characterisation?Who knows; the little grey cells will not provide me with an answer. In any case, it's lovely to have the spirit of this slightly pompous protagonist continued. Now who else writes new Miss Marples? Maybe that's a new area for me - fan fiction?