Can you solve the crime on this Murder Island?
Tuesday:Murder Island; (C4, 9.30pm)
The world of crime fiction is one of the most rich and varied literary genres, packed to the rafters with legends, from Agatha Christie and PD James to Harlan Coben and Val McDermid, to name but a few.
But when it comes to murder mysteries offering a glimpse of Edinburgh’s seedy underbelly, only one man comes to mind: Ian Rankin.
His iconic creation, Detective Inspector John Rebus, has appeared in 21 stories to date (despite retiring) and has gripped and delighted millions of fans, as well as making the leap to the small screen, brought to life by John Hannah and Ken Stott.
Born in Cardenden in Fife in 1960, Rankin initially surprised his parents by choosing to read literature at the University of Edinburgh rather than opting to learn a trade. He graduated in 1982, and before turning to writing as a full-time job, made ends meet as a grape-picker, swineherd, taxman and alcohol researcher, among others.
In his early days, Rankin didn’t even consider himself a crime writer; he preferred to think he was following in the tradition of Scottish luminaries such as Robert Louis Stevenson, and while fretting over their being classed as ‘genre’ fiction, fellow author Allan Massie asked him: “Do you think John Buchan ever worried about whether he was writing literature or not?”
Thankfully Rankin overcame his worries and has gone on to become not only a prolific writer and major contributor to the ‘tartan noir’ phenomenon, which also includes the aforementioned Val McDermid, he also accounts for 10 per cent of all crime fiction sold in the UK.
He’s turned his hand to other projects along the way, including graphic novels and even writing a play, but novels remain his bread-and-butter pursuit.
Which brings us neatly to this new, six-part series. Set on the remote Scottish island of Gigha, it follows teams of two as they try to solve a complex, cryptic murder case devised by none other than Rankin himself.
Speaking about his involvement, he said: “When it comes to writing a whodunit I usually call the shots, taking the reader only to the places I want them to visit and showing them only the characters I want them to see. Murder Island is different. The detectives can follow any strand, uncovering clues as they go and asking the suspects any questions they like. Will I manage to stay one step ahead of them? I think I’ve constructed my twistiest story yet – so let’s see!”
If you enjoyed Channel 4 stablemate Hunted then this will also be up your alley. The participants have just one week to crack the case; they have access to police resources, including pathologists, forensic scientists and psychologists to help them.
The teams will be racing to be the first to identify the prime suspect and bring them to justice.
Kelly Webb-Lamb, deputy director of programmes and head of popular factual at Channel 4, said: “We are incredibly excited to be working with the world-renowned Ian Rankin in making this ambitious, challenging and genre-busting series. In a television first, members of the public step into the crime scene and compete to solve the murder.”
Crime and mystery fans will have high expectations of this gripping-sounding series, and those who know and love Rankin are unlikely to be disappointed. Miss this one at your peril.
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