The subterranean in crime fiction: examining Edinburgh’s underground in Ian Rankin’s John Rebus novels

Ian R. Cook*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Given the prominence of subterranean settings and imagery within crime fiction, this article critically examines the genre’s representation of the subterranean. Influenced by scholarly work on the subterranean, I focus on the writing of one prominent crime novelist, Ian Rankin, and his Edinburgh-set John Rebus detective novels. From a relational standpoint, two issues are focused on: subterranean place (namely the attachment of meaning to the subterranean, the power relations that run through the subterranean, and the underground’s connections to the aboveground) and subterranean time (notably the role of the subterranean in shaping the relationship between the past and the present). Traversing Edinburgh’s basements and graves, as well as hell and the underworld, I demonstrate that Rankin uses subterranean place and time to accentuate some of the hidden harms, inequalities and injustices of urban life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Early online date22 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Apr 2024

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