The Travelling Companion: For As Long As It Takes To Get There by Ian Rankin (book review)

July 18, 2016 | By | Reply More

‘The Travelling Companion’ is a quirky offering from Ian Rankin, creator of ‘Rebus’, the dissolute detective. This story finds its original in the city of Rebus and Rankin, Edinburgh. The twin sides of the city are often explored in Rankin’s crime fiction but here he adds another more supernatural element and transfers the action to Paris.


A young man, Ronald Hastie, travelling in France with a First Class Honours from Edinburgh and not much else, happens to meet a bookshop owner, a descendant of Walt Whitman no less. He’s offered a job of sorts, which involves no money but does include accommodation. Well, a bed anyway. Hastie, a devotee of Robert Louis Stevenson, is sent by his employer on the trail of a rare copy of the original story of ‘ Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde’, set in Edinburgh and featuring that most heinous of villains the scientist Jekyll who experiments with chemicals and finds his inner beast, Hyde.

Told with an eye both for detail and for suspense, we are drawn into the world of Ronald Hastie and sink into a morass of madness and fear. It’s gripping stuff and employs Rankin’s considerable talent as a storyteller.

I confess to being a serial reader of ‘Rebus’ novels and sometimes re-reading them. The darkness in them is entirely from the human race but here Rankin offers us a glimpse of what his gothic novels could be like if he went the whole hog and swapped genres.

Written before Freud had identified the id inside us all waiting to break out and be beastly, this Victorian gothic novel has continued to influence fiction to this day. The sort of traits in gothic novels survived long enough to become clichéd and anyone taking this on walks a thin line between a true horror story and a laughable pastiche. The Victorian novel relied heavily on the psycho-sexual obsessions and Victorian repression of desire that that Jekyll and Hyde represents and Rankin uses all this and more giving us a spanking good read.

Sue Davies

July 2016

(pub: Head of Zeus. 48 page paperback. Price: £ 5.99 (UK), $ 4.41 (US). ISBN: 978-1-78669-066-1)

check out website: www.headofzeus.com

Category: Books, Fantasy, Horror

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