Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 29, 2018

The Travelling Companion, by Ian Rankin

I had a pile of other books in my hand as I headed to the self-serve checkout at the library, but I spied this en route and fell for the cover.  The designer doesn’t even get a mention but it’s his/her cunning design that made me add it to the pile without even looking at the name of the author.  Who I have should have recognised because he’s a stalwart of our literary festivals (even though #DuckingForCover I would hesitate to call him a literary author).

Anyway, this short story packaged to look like a book is apparently part of a series called Bibliomysteries, and it sells for about $12.00.  Which seems a lot to pay for a ‘book’ you can read in 20 minutes.  Riffing on RL Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, it reminded me of The Aspern Papers by Henry James.  (Which you can read online for free at Gutenberg Project, and possibly enjoy more).

Seriously, there is not much more to say about The Travelling Companion than that.  I do not understand the preoccupation with crime that fuels the crime fiction and true crime book industry, but I know that Rankin is enormously popular, and (once I realised who wrote it) I expected it to be well-crafted if not exactly to my taste.  But IMHO it’s not.

The first half of the story is dull, and the second half of it is silly.  A young university graduate from Edinburgh stumbles into employment at Shakespeare and Company #2 and under the influence of drugs and bad company stops being the sensible Scot that he had been, breaking a girlfriend’s heart in the process.  Then he stumbles into the acquaintance of someone who purports to have the destroyed drafts of RL Stevenson’s racier texts. How this resolves itself is so clearly foreshadowed by the texts it references, that all I can say is that some readers are easily pleased.  There are five-star reviews along with some bemused two- and three-star ones at Goodreads. I gave it two because I liked the cover.

Author: Ian Rankin
Title: The Travelling Companion
Publisher: Head of Zeus, London, 2016
ISBN: 9781786690661 (hbk, 88 pages)
Source: Springvale Library

Available from Fishpond: The Travelling Companion


  1. GOSH


    • Yeah, brave or crazy, that’s me!


  2. The Biblio series is, I think, for established fans of the authors who write them. Just my opinion–from having read a couple. (PS typo in headline of author’s name)


    • Thanks for that, I’ve fixed it. I started writing this on my laptop but the wireless connection was so slooooow that I literally had to wait a full second before typing each letter and I guess my attention wandered and didn’t notice the typo. Here on my desktop, where I connect through an old-fashioned wire under the house, I have no such excuses!


      • hey I’ve done it too.


        • It drives me crazy!


          • I go over and over and over my reviews before posting and yet things still sneak by.


            • Me too… sometimes I go back and read an old review that I know I’ve proofread obsessively and lo! there’s one I missed #cringe.


  3. You make this sound so flimsy I wonder why this ever got written…..was he under pressure from publishers maybe?


    • I don’t know… it certainly wasn’t much of an introduction to this author as far as I was concerned.


  4. I like Rankin’s crime fiction, it is probably at least on the edge of being literary – the UK’s answer to Simenon maybe. Shame he didn’t pull this one off, I think authors are often too cute with their literary references.


    • They can sometimes be under pressure to produce books for a certain market, maybe in this case, the “time poor” market. I think that this could have been a good story, but it needed greater length so that everything wasn’t so obvious. Because if a mystery or crime novel is obvious, well, here’s no point to it….


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