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Witch Hunt    by Ian Rankin order for
Witch Hunt
by Ian Rankin
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'm a long-time fan of Ian Rankin's remarkable series starring Edinburgh Inspector John Rebus. Witch Hunt is something quite different, a spy thriller involving a race against time to track down an assassin (a female one).

Rankin gives a variety of protagonists more or less equal billing. Greenleaf and Doyle are two Special Branch officers whose very different styles come together to make an effective team. Michael Barclay is a newbie MI5 officer, reporting to Joyce Parry. And Dominic Elder is an ex-colleague of Joyce's, who retired early after compiling a bulky file on a freelance terrorist known as 'Witch' - he still bears scars from their last encounter. Elder invites himself in on the action again, after Witch makes an explosive entrance on the British scene, followed by the very cleverly executed killing of shady banker Khan.

That was clearly an aside, an extra job for quick cash. The question is who is this brilliant assassin's prime target? Will it be one of the attendees at the international summit, or does she have a more personal agenda? Why is Elder so obsessed with her pursuit and what does it have to do with his lost daughter? Barclay (mentored and manipulated by Elder) follows the trail to Calais, Paris and Hanover, accompanied by attractive (and very canny) young DST agent, Dominique Herault. Clues are garnered from a left-wing political cartoonist in France, a fairground in England, and a prison in Germany. Witch makes her plans and moves closer to her target, pursuers hot on her trail.

As the action escalates, Dominic Elder does get up close and personal with his nemesis, Witch. It's a perilous proximity. Though none of the novel's characters (aside from Witch herself) has yet engaged my interest as much as John Rebus, I enjoyed their story and hope that Witch Hunt is just the beginning of another Rankin series.

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