Rankin's prime objection is that the Christieverse is so remote from everyday reality:
"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."
As it happens, I myself grew in a working-class area and Christie's pastoral world was never a problem to me - but then I was never that strange kind of reader who wants books to reflect his own life and experience. But I digress.
Rankin's depiction of the Christieverse is of course stereotypical - also, for his and the reporter's edification, Christie actually wrote some books where the police solves the case. She even made one of her detectives (admittedly less well-known and popular than Poirot or Marple) a police official. And to say that "status quo returns" at the end of And Then There Were None, Five Little Pigs or The Hollow requires an odd idea of status quo - or not being familiar with the books. But I digress once again.
"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."
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?"
Rankin's work by contrast is blunt and unflinching in its examination of the dark realities of crime:
"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."
Besides, realism is what readers want:
He believes instead that a majority of current crime fiction readers want professionals -- pathologists or lawyers or cops -- to be solving the crime.
One might object that they're not given much choice anyway. But it would be digressing once again.
The question Rankin either carefully avoids or is not aware of is how much "realism" is possible in what remains an extremely codified genre. For all its documentation and literary and social pretensions, Rankin's work is barely more "realistic" than Christie's - Rebus in particular is a fantasy figure as remote in his own way from the average cop than Roderick Alleyn was.
If crime writers were to be really realistic, they would only write about crime as it happens in real life - something unglamorous, uncomplicated, committed and investigated by decidedly uncolourful people. Let's face it, it would be extremely boring and unlikely to make you "UK`s number 1 crime author". So crime writers prefer to write about detectives with strong personalities investigating complex cases; which accounts at best for 1% of real-life crime (but is the stuff of headlines and best-sellers) much like Christie did in her time. The difference being that Christie never pretended to give others lessons in "realism".
Wish more would follow her example.