Verrier, Hannah

Ian Rankin and 'Tartan Noir'


Literary Origins and Generic Potential of the Inspector Rebus Series



What does it mean to be Scottish? What current developments and challenges is modern Scotland facing? Ian Rankin's 'tartan noir' series featuring DI John Rebus functionalises criminal investigations to address these very questions. But what exactly is 'tartan noir' other than a marketing label for Scottish crime fiction? What are the origins of this hybrid genre and how is it functionalised to depict the Scottish condition in the Rebus novels?

In the first part of this study, the diverse sources of Rankin's series are explored. Detailed comparative analyses show how and to what end features from established crime fiction genres are adapted, modified and (re)functionalised in the Rebus series. This includes the investigation of
- the basic patterns of Poe and Doyle as well as clue puzzle features,
- hard-boiled elements,
- influences of transgressor-centred crime fiction (serial killer novels),
- aspects of historical crime fiction and
- police procedural features in Rankin's Rebus series.

The second part of this study demonstrates how the resulting hybrid pattern of 'tartan noir' is employed to (de)construct Scottishness in the Rebus novels. To achieve this, the functionalisation of the Scottish literary tradition is analysed before the series' construction of Scottishness is examined in the categories of setting, plot, society and characters, language and the (de)construction of Scottish stereotypes.

Finally, the Rebus series is contextualised both nationally and internationally and its complexity and inherent functional potential are recapitulated, culminating in a descriptive definition of the crime fiction subgenre 'tartan noir'.


ISBN 978-3-86821-682-0, 254 S., kt., 31,50 (2016)

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