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 novel.
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 format.
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."