The best-selling crime fiction writer does little to hide his disdain for the "Agatha Christie-style puzzle stories".
"The world that she wrote about seems so alien to me. This pastoral, idealised vision of England, where there is this very big house in a quiet village. Someone is found poisoned in the snooker room or the library...."
A world in which the police never solve the crime.
"Some amateur detective, a little old lady or a gentleman, comes along to do that. At the end, everything is explained, and status quo returns."
Rankin, who was in India last month, admits he tried reading these stories when he was an adolescent. "But I grew up in a solidly working-class coal mining town... and that world meant nothing to me."
I gingerly point out that Agatha Christie continues to be one of the most-read authors in India. And we still relish movies based on her books (Rituparno Ghosh`s 2003 Shubho Mahurat, for instance)
"I can see why those books are successful," Rankin shoots back. "It offers this idea that human beings can solve all problems. That the world goes back to being a nice place when the killer is caught. Life ain`t like that."
Rankin`s own iconic character, Inspector Reebus, often ruminates that crime never goes away.
"The one realisation that Reebus has is that it doesn`t matter how many criminals he catches and puts in jail, there is never a vacuum. More criminals emerge. The society we created creates crime, imbalance and injustice. People will always be jealous and people will commit crime. A sense of grievance will always remain."
He thinks it`s too far-fetched to imagine an amateur can solve a crime.
"When was the last time in real life that the little lady solved the crime that the police couldn`t solve?"
He believes instead that a majority of current crime fiction readers want professionals -- pathologists or lawyers or cops -- to be solving the crime.
Rankin should know.
He continues to be UK`s number 1 crime author.
He has also won a series of awards for his works: Two Crime Writers` Association (CWA) Dagger prizes for short stories, the CWA Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction for Black and Blue, the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for a lifetime`s achievement in crime writing and the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for Author of the Year, for Exit Music.
Text: Sarita Ravindranath
Image: Ian Rankin in Chennai (Pictures courtesy: British Council, Chennai. Any unauthorised reproduction is prohibited)