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Byline: Reviews by Paul Cole and Richard Williamson

Beggars Banquet by Ian Rankin (Orion, pounds 16.99) THIS is just what frustrated fans want as they wait impatiently for the next Inspector Rebus novel.

Because Rankin, currently the number one crime-writer in Britain, gives us no fewer than 21 short stories, half a dozen of which star the harassed, troubled, dogged and crumpled Rebus - the flawed but fascinating Edinburgh cop.

In fact, Rankin tells us that he likes to write short stories in between Rebus novels in order to get the inspector out of his system for a while.

The collection opens with Rebus reluctantly investigating the death of an elderly man who tumbled down the stairs. Could the nice, quiet little widow sitting in the parlour have given him a push?

Rebus may have problems with whisky and the kind of diet that drives doctors to despair, but he's a sharp cookie when it comes to unravelling crimes.

Trouble is, will there be any satisfaction in being proved right in this case?

Once you're hooked, you'll want to rush on to the next 20 stories in a collection that is destined to keep a lot of people very happy this summer. RW

Dead Alone by Gay Longworth (Harper Collins, pounds 9.99) FORMER Birmingham University graduate Gay is one of the rising stars of crime fiction and her latest serial-killer thriller has enough twists and turns to keep detective devotees guessing.

Too many of them, in fact. The tangled tale she weaves is more complicated than the London Underground map and will have you back-tracking several times to make sense of it all.

Someone is bumping off those annoying B-List celebs who turn up at every media opportunity - the well-endowed wannabe actress, the controversial artist, the aristocratic 'it' girl etc.

Each is a thinly-veiled version of a real person, stopping just short of the door to the libel lawyer's office. And each is murdered in a manner designed to expose their secret vice.

Enter Jessie Driver, yet another feisty woman cop battling male prejudice, who chances upon the truth after being sent to examine a pile of old bones washed up by the Thames.

At the same time Longworth unravels a second thread - a woman's hunt for the long-lost brother taken into care when the two of them were orphaned by a gangster's bullet.

It all comes together, of course, leaving the author to reveal all in the final pages of a novel let down only by its occasionally stilted dialogue and a tendency for clutter. PC
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 18, 2002
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