three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
13-Nov-Dec-2004
By: 
Ian Rankin
user_rating: 
0

A-WitchHuntRankin, best-selling British author of the Inspector Rebus novels, changes gear in Witch Hunt, which features the Wicked Witch of the We—no, not her, she’s dead—a female assassin nicknamed Witch, who will hunt down just about anyone. Known for her ingenious masquerades and femme fatale ways, Witch may have been involved in the explosion of two boats off England and France. She’s now headed for an important London summit to seduce, and possibly kill, some venerable heads of state. Soon, Scotland Yard detectives are on her trail—and the case turns highly personal.
Little, Brown. 387 pages. $19.95. ISBN: 0316009105

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"The intricate pursuit is strewn with country fairs, murdered Middle-Eastern bankers, local fishermen’s boats that explode in the middle of the night, an imprisoned West German terrorist, a Gypsy fortune-teller ... and as many traps and false leads engineered by Witch as Rankin can conjure up. … Rankin’s at the top of his form, despite his new turn." Sam Coale

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"The minute he tries to analyze the psychological compulsions that drove the Witch to become what he characterizes as a ‘feminist assassin,’ he reduces her to just another male fantasy of an angry woman. Nothing can save a thriller once the villain loses mythic stature, but Rankin controls the damage by shifting style and writing to his strength, the densely detailed mechanics of the police procedural." Marilyn Stasio

Washington Post 1 of 5 Stars
"… a spy thriller … that doesn’t quite come off. … [In] the end the witch’s motives turn out to be entirely and specifically personal. It feels both lame and perverse." Richard Lipez

Critical Summary

Witch Hunt, a combo police procedural and spy thriller, may or may not live up to Edgar Award-winning Rankin’s reputation, depending on who’s doing the writing. The Providence Journal offers up high praise, complimenting Rankin on his intricate backdrop, inventive plots, and insight into "bureaucratic skullduggery" and "policies of protocol and inter-agency hierarchies." The Washington Post, by contrast, compares Witch Hunt to works by John le Carré "in his glory days"—but without le Carré’s literary finesse and sense of history. Until Rankin returns to his unparalleled form, here is a tepid thriller that, at least, won’t inspire terrorist nightmares. See our profile of Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series in our "Great Mystery Series" feature.