It was interesting to read Michael Connelly’s The Black Box and Ian Rankin’s Standing in Another Man’s Grave back to back. There’s a lot of similarities between the two series. Both follow the exploits of maverick cops who have analogous characteristics and histories. Harry Bosch and John Rebus both started out in the army before becoming cops. Both are laws unto themselves who have their own approaches that bend rules and set them in conflict with their bosses, and both are no strangers to be investigated by internal watchdogs. They survive because they solve difficult puzzles and get results, and they have been protected by senior cops who have watched their backs. Their careers trajectories are also similar, with both cops having retired as detectives to be taken back on in cold case units. In both cases their personal lives are a bit of a mess, each has a daughter with whom they have a difficult relationship, and they are obsessive about music. Both detectives have featured in eighteen novels, and both authors are published by Orion. I’ve read 15 of the Bosch books and all of Rebus.
So what are the differences? For me, the main differences are that Bosch acts more in a solo capacity, whereas Rebus is anarchic but tries harder to bring his colleagues along with him; the Bosch novels tend more towards thriller-like finales, whereas Rebus cases tend to play out in more understated but equally dramatic ways; and Rankin tends to have more layered and complex stories with nuanced subplots and stronger secondary characters (especially in the latter books in both series). That said, both are exceptionally strong series, with main characters that have built up loyal followings for good reasons - compelling lead characters, strong sense of place, good contextualisation, and strong plotting.
I’m sure that this would have been a post that Maxine Clarke, an avid crime fiction fan, reviewer of books on her blog Petrona, and curator of the Crime and Mystery Friendfeed, would have commented on. Connelly and Rankin rated amongst her favourite authors and she always had a perceptive observation to offer. Sadly, Maxine passed away on Monday morning after a long illness. She was a great friend of this blog, especially when I first started out, inviting me into the Friendfeed community and introducing me to other crime fiction bloggers. She will be sadly missed by authors and readers for her constructive critical appraisal and by the community of crime fiction bloggers for whom she was a key catalyst and energetic friend. A measure of the esteem in which she is held is the number of tributes that have been written in her honour over the past couple of days - links to them all are listed on Margot Kinberg's blog. I hope she’s comfortably settled in the ‘big library in the sky’.