Recently, I ventured to Scotland for “holiday” (as the Brits call their vacations), armed with my iPad, loaded with an Ian Rankin mystery.  Rankin, a Scot, is best known for his Inspector Rebus series, set in the gritty underbelly of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. I’ve read quite a few Rankin books, both from his lengthy John Rebus series and his standalone thrillers, and have always been mystified at what drives an author to set story after story in the same town (there are 19 Rebus books in the series, which the author ended in 2007).

Once in the historic city, I began to see what inspired Rankin to write Rebus in Edinburgh for 20 years (his first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, was published in 1987).   Edinburgh, like any major city, is chaotic and cluttered and dirty and crowded and on and on.  But, UNLIKE most major cities (especially the ones on THIS side of the pond), Edinburgh is filled with a captivating and fascinating history around every corner.  And, because of its hilly, winding streets and dark gray buildings (the porous stone has absorbed years of soot and dirt), not to mention the pretty regular mist and/or fog that hangs over the atmosphere, Edinburgh lends itself perfectly to the criminal element.  This is not to say I encountered any nefarious sorts in Edinburgh (hardly! — unless you count men in kilts nefarious) but I can understand why Rankin’s Rebus feels so at home here…fighting crime in a city from another time…feeling almost like another world.  So, if you want to visit Edinburgh, you can either hop a plane at O’Hare or you can pick up a John Rebus mystery by Ian Rankin.  Both give off the same eerie effect, but one will be MUCH easier on your wallet (whether in British Pounds or dollars!).

Oh, and Rebus is also available as a TV series on DVD: the first set with John Hannah as Rebus and the three more sets with Ken Stott as the Edinburgh inspector.

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GREAT series with a stodgy superior detective who’s assistant seems always to be wrong and/or one step behind. Yes, it’s similar to Morse and Lynley, but the rural setting and the clever dialogue make this one stand-out among the others. I really like the rapport between the senior detective Barnaby and his always second-fiddle Sergeant Troy. For those who love British detective shows, this one is a MUST SEE!

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Dr. Tony Hill is a psychologist. A pretty dang quirky one. He talks to himself. He tries to work out his cases by posing as both the criminal and the doctor. He’s a little strange…but boy is he clever. He plods and thinks and analyzes and examines and will not stop until he has solved the puzzle…always one step ahead of both the criminal and the police. Working with him is Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan who has a pretty major crush on Dr. Hill (and vice-versa) but neither will ever let anything happen. They are both too professional for that. But, as a crime-solving duo, they work together flawlessly. DCI Jordan calls Dr. Hill in on special cases…stumpers — mostly multiple murder cases or serial killings. Hill can almost “get inside” or see inside the brain of the killer. In the first case, Dr. Hill gets more than he bargains for when he helps DCI Jordan on a serial killing case and he gets targeted by the killer and captured and tortured. Does Jordan save him in time? Well, let’s just say that the series goes on.

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I’m assuming this is how police work really is…sometimes it’s just waiting around, and sometimes it’s busier than can be. This HBO series goes into the inner-workings of a special task force of police detectives who work on complicated, complex cases…cases that require more time than most police would be willing to give. Season one deals with the tracking down of a drug kingpin in the Baltimore (where the show is set) projects. The entire season of shows is based on this one case…which is also how subsequent seasons are as well. No, it’s not boring…they catch small members of the drug gang and then they just keep working up the food chain until the catch some big fish. It’s intense and riveting and as exciting as any cop show I’ve seen (maybe even more exciting) even though the cast of criminals stays the same. If you like crime stories on TV, this one is a must!

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Ray Winstone embodies what all police want to be. He’s good at what he does. He’s great with the ladies. And he looks cool while doing it all. Vincent is an excellent show that really gets into the persona of the detective. Many cop shows brush on it…but this one gets inside. Winstone is an appeal, loveable yet slightly worn character that makes you wonder why he does what he does. But, when he starts solving crime, it all makes sense, since the puzzle pieces fall into place for him with such ease. A great show!

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A well-made British show about a vice cop who just cannot leave his work at the office. His passion for getting girls off of the streets consumes him…ruining every aspect of his personal and private life. Well-written and extremely well-acted by Ken Stott, who is best known for his work in another British show, Rebus. A must see for anyone crime TV aficionado!

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What a wonderful, eccentric detective Detective Inspector Frost is. He’s a whip-smart guy who never lacks that witty comeback or that well-timed pun. He loathes paper-work and patronizes his boss whenever he has the chance. All in all, a perfect British crime solver. The seasons I watched were (1 and 2, I believe) filled with good mysteries. Ones where you don’t see the outcome right from the beginning, which is good because with those predictable ones, you’re bored a third of the way through. But, regardless of the crimes, Frost would be entertainment on his own. In season one, his wife is ill and eventually passes away. But, during even this tragedy, Frost holds onto his famed “edge” never leaving a missed opportunity for a quick, snappy remark. Some would call that in bad taste. I just call it funny. I mean the character is set-up so you never really do take him THAT seriously. Why would he let us down by getting all serious when his wife is ill. He is serious, though, as a crime solver. That is when he shapes up and means business. But, then again, he does find ample chance to “stick” quips to the criminals. Don’t you worry….

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Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison is one tough lady. She does not give up…no matter what the odds. She stands by her convictions and her beliefs no matter who tells her she is wrong or that she “can’t” do something. Basically, police do not come any stronger than she. In Prime Suspect 1, Tennison has been passed over several times for big cases, something she believes has to do with her being a woman. So, after a male counterpart dies at the beginning of a big murder investigation, Tennison insists on taking over the case. Once she gets what she wants, most of the men under her are quite a bit upset. But, she does not in anyway let that discourage the ferocity at which she handles the case. I mean, she gets discourage and even loses a live-in relationship because of her long hours and stress level. But, for the most part, she is able to keep it together enough to get her suspect, so to speak. If you like British detective shows, this one is a must.

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Watching Monk makes me feel less neurotic. I mean, who the heck can be more neurotic than this guy? I’m sure there are people out there but in my slightly-neurotic case, I’m sorry…detective Adrian Monk just makes me feel better about my little problems. Aside from that selfish reason, I like the show also because it’s funny and highly entertaining (at least to me). The cases are simple and often quite silly and far-fetched, but Monk’s character makes up for it by being one of the most complex and fascinating (some might call it annoying) characters on TV today. Monk is basically about a man who lost his wife in a tragic accident and he becomes so highly obsessive-compulsive that he can no longer be a police officer. So, he uses he super-detective powers to good use by consulting for the police. Like the Sherlock Holmes stories where Sherlock has his Watson, Monk has a sidekick in his assistant Natalie (Sharona was his assistant in the first two seasons). Sherlock also had a police inspector who was always calling him in for assistance, just like Monk’s Captain Stottlemeyer. All in all, Monk usually provides a solid hour of fun fair and escapism…and also makes you feel more secure about all of your minor foibles and quirks.

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For a British detective show, this one is fun. Having LOVED Patricia Routledge in her acclaimed British comedy Keeping Up Appearances, I was at first hesitant to try this show. I mean, Routledge will always be Appearances’ Hyacinth Bucket to me and watching her play anything else would be silly and pointless, right? Well, Routledge’s acting skills are such that, shortly after I began the first season of Hetty, I soon forgot about Hyacinth and Appearances (at least for the time being). Routledge’s Hetty is a spunky, determined woman who is desperate to fight off senior citizenship for as long as she can. Her husband recently retires and he figures they will live a life of quiet, peaceful rest but Hetty is cagy and unfulfilled by the thought of lazing around in her Golden Years. Instead, she takes a job at a post office branch and while working, she begins to investigate some potential frauds. One thing leads to another and she is well on her way to solving crimes. She enlists the help of a young, wandering teenaged boy who becomes her “assistant” and eventually moves in with her and her husband. Unlike some detective shows where there is a strong “gimmick” factor…the gimmick here being a senior, former housewife detective…the crimes and plots are pretty strong and convincing. The cases she takes on are not fluff, but also in the same token, they are not so unbelievable that no one would ever be able to solve them…not to mention an inexperienced P.I.

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