Ian Rankin’s Rebus is one of my favourite literary creations. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read as many books by any other author. Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) (363 pages), the 18th novel in the Inspector Rebus series, takes the total to an unsurprising 18. It’s been about ten years since I read Exit Music (2007), which at the time was supposedly Rankin’s final Rebus novel, what with Rebus’s imminent retirement. I only recently became aware that Rebus had returned to the book shelves and, moreover, that Rankin published the 21st Rebus novel in 2016. So it was with a combination of curiosity and a little reticence that I picked up where I left off…
We find Rebus retired from the policy force but employed as a civilian in Edinburgh’s cold case unit. By chance Rebus answers the door of the cold case unit to the mother of a girl who had gone missing years ago. Another girl has recently gone missing and the mother suspects that the two are linked. Rebus is convinced that there’s something to the hypothesis and drags the cold case into the middle of the more recent investigation and the limelight, and in true Rebus style, stepping on a few toes in the process.
I hadn’t expected Rebus to have changed: he’s still the proverbial dog with a bone; never shy at telling senior officers the truth as he sees it; and willing to bend a few rules here and there. So far, so Rebus. We’re also in familiar company with the likes of “Big Ger'” Cafferty and DI Siobhan Clarke. ‘Standing’ also introduces us to a few new characters, including James Page (Siobhan’s DCI and love interest), Malcolm Fox (a detective in Internal Affairs who’s gunning for Rebus), and villains in the shape of Frank Hammell (an old associate of Cafferty’s) and Darryl Christie (who’s not yet out of his teens and I suspect a future thorn in Rebus’s side). A handful of officers add to the mix but they don’t quite have the relationship that Rebus would have had with others, for example, the pathologist Dr. Curt. Other trusted objects of Rebus’s, and our, affections remain, such as the musical references, Rebus’s Saab, and The Oxford (Rebus’s local).
It’s all there but perhaps not quite. The plot feels like a typical Rebus one but there’s something missing. Perhaps it’s the lack of banter Rebus has with other officers, despite Malcolm Fox being a welcome addition. Or perhaps it’s the lack of an intimate relationship which we’d usually find in a Rebus novel. Regardless, the book is as well written as I’d expect and reading it felt like putting on an old pair of shoes. For its shortcomings. it’s still a Rebus book which means that it’s better than most things out there.
Rebus 19 here we come!