With the BBC, you can always count
on a fresh and interesting take on the mystery genre. With Rebus,
it looks like another solid entrant on the field: no gimmicks, just
interesting stories in well-acted and well-produced presentations.
This is the second set of Rebus mysteries, but my first
exposure to them; I found them to be definitely worthwhile.
All four of the feature-length
mysteries in Rebus Set 2 are based on novels by Ian Rankin, in
the contemporary take on the "hard-boiled" genre. John
Rebus (Ken Stott) is a hard-drinking, tough-minded police detective
in Edinburgh. For Rebus, it's an often bleak and depressing business,
with street crime and unemployment on the one hand, and high-level
corruption and intrigue on the other. The programs' basis in novels
is apparent in their complex and well-developed plots, which include
interesting and well-rounded secondary characters. Rebus makes for a
good choice as the detective, while the supporting characters of his
partner, DS Clarke, and boss, DSC Templer, also provide strong
contributions to the stories.
"The Black Book" starts
off Rebus Set 2 with the murders of two young women - ten
years apart. Could a prominent politician be behind the crimes? The
puzzle is made more interesting by the appearance of the eponymous
black book: an anonymously mailed book written in code. "The
Black Book" is based on Rankin's 1993 novel of the same name.
"A Question of Blood"
strikes closer to home, for Rebus and for American viewers as well.
Three college students - one of whom is Rebus' cousin - are shot,
with the assailant apparently committing suicide afterwards. But the
situation is much more complex than it appears on the surface. The
filmmakers chose a later Rebus novel for this episode, basing it on
the 2003 novel.
"Strip Jack" brings
scandal and death together: a millionaire social activist gets busted
in a police raid on a brothel - and his wife turns up dead not long
afterwards. Was her death one of a series? A copycat killing? Or
something else? "Strip Jack" is based on the 1992 novel by
the same name.
"Let It Bleed" finishes
off the set with a bang, pitting Rebus against the establishment on a
number of counts. There's pressure on him from all fronts as Rebus
investigates a peculiar suicide. A petty criminal commits suicide in
the lobby of a prestigious investment banking firm. As Rebus follows
up on this odd event, he turns up links that go deeper and deeper
into dangerous territory. "Let It Bleed" falls in the
middle of the Rebus chronology of novels, based on Rankin's 1996
Rebus Set 2 contains four
DVDs, each packaged in its own ultra-slim keepcase, with all four
discs in a glossy paperboard slipcase.
The image quality is OK in the
close-ups, but medium and distance shots tend to be be grainy and a
bit pixellated. Interior shots have good colors, but contrast tends
to be too harsh. Outside shots look natural and cleaner. All the
episodes are presented in their original widescreen anamorphic
The sound is slightly muffled, so
that the dialogue is at a low volume compared to the rest of the
soundtrack, so it's necessary to crank up the volume a fair amount to
get the dialogue clear enough. The stereo sound ends up being
serviceable but not noteworthy.
"Rebus: Behind the
Scenes" runs 47 minutes. This is more than your usual,
run-of-the-mill featurette: it's an in-depth look at the making of
the current BBC series, from origins to filming. It's sure to be
interesting for any viewer, and especially so for Rebus fans. We also
get cast filmographies and a biography of author Ian Rankin.
Novelist Ian Rankin, a bestselling
author in the UK, has been writing crime novels starring the
character of John Rebus for twenty years. The BBC television
adaptations of his "tartan noir" stories of crime in
Scotland are a definite success, showing why Rankin's work is so
popular. The Edinburgh setting is a welcome change from the many
mysteries set in London, Rebus makes for a complex, dark, and
compelling detective figure, and the four mysteries offer a good
range of storytelling. While the image quality isn't stellar, it's a
solid and watchable transfer. For casual viewers, a "recommended";
for mystery fans, a "highly recommended."