Archive for Ian Rankin

Book review – Saints of the Shadow Bible

Last November I picked up the 18th novel in Ian Rankin’s Rebus series (and reviewed it in these pages). At that time, it’d been a decade since I’d read a Rebus novel, not being aware that Rankin had brought him out of retirement (albeit in a civilian role). My overall impression of Rebus #18 was positive, albeit accompanied with the sense that something was missing, and hoping that that missing thing would return in Rebus #19.

Rebus #19 – Saints of the Shadow Bible – (2013) sees Rebus back on the force, in the rankling (no pun intended!) position of Detective Sergeant; a demotion. The title sounds more like a Dan Brown novel and refers to the crew (the ‘Saints’) that Rebus first ran around with on joining the force, each of whom swore an oath on what was known as the ‘Shadow Bible’. The Saints played hard – more ‘Life on Mars’ than ‘Line of Duty’ – and not always by the book. Following changes to Scotland’s double jeopardy law, the Solicitor General wants to reopen a case which could cause problems for the Saints, who’ve gone their separate ways. Leading the investigation is Malcolm Fox in his last case for ‘Complaints’ – the force’s internal affairs division. Fox and Rebus aren’t the best of friends and Siobhan “Shiv” Clarke, now a DI, and Rebus’s boss, is referee. As ever, there’s another case on the boil which becomes entwined with the Saints.

So, does the missing ingredient return and what was it? It’s hard to be precise but it’s fair to say that Saints feels like a Rebus book of old. With Rebus back on the force and the sparring that entails, I think we find our missing ingredient. There seems to be more of Shiv in comparison with #18 – if memory serves – and watching the relationship with Fox unfold is a delight. You can take for granted that it’s well written, with excellent characterisation, and Rankin does his usual excellent job of weaving together a number of seemingly disparate and believable stories.

It’s highly recommended but you really should start at the beginning with Knots and Crosses. You’ll thank me.

Book review – Standing in Another Man’s Grave

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!