A very short book - 48 pages - by one of my favourite authors.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it's about a student who goes to Paris and works in a book shop in exchange for room and board. He meets a mysterious man and things get interesting from there. In spite of it being short it is unpredicatable and thus a very satsifying read.
No Rebus in sight.
As a Scot I am (almost) ashamed to admit that I have never read any of Ian Rankin's crime books, and feeling decidedly humble, I feel ready to change this and am intrigued by the adoration he and his books seem to generate. There are so many to choose from and I just wonder what is the best one to start with, read, or even your favourite? That way I can choose a good one to read?
Review first published on my blog:
This is a re-read for me, but it was so long ago that I read it the first time, I couldn't remember much about it. I had also forgotten how much I enjoy the Rebus books.
The Delightful Mr F and I used to live close to Edinburgh, and whilst we never developed local knowledge of the city, the descriptions are enough to bring the spirit of Edinburgh through. The elegant streets of the new town against the creepy cobbled alleyways of the old town are all used to great effect as a serial killer kidnaps girls and murders them leaving cryptic clues.
Rebus is a wonderful character, he's a proper hard boiled cop. Hard drinking, a good judge of character and in it up to his neck. There is a nice parallel story about the relationship between Rebus and his brother.
If you want a good mystery, set in a wonderful and atmospheric location with a nasty baddie, and some believable characters then you can't go far wrong. I have book 2 on my shelves, which I think I shall save for the Christmas break. I can feel a reading binge coming on.
This is Ian Rankin's latest John Rebus story and it's excellent for all the reasons that Rankin's books are so good (even the non-Rebus books, but especially the Rebus books). Rankin tells a believable story and tells it very well. The plot never drags. The people all behave believably, so that there's no super villain with near-psychic powers and our heroes are not always in terrible danger. There are some very bad people who do very bad things, but they are all the kinds of bad things you read about in the newspaper, which makes what happens sadly realistic. And the crimes are solved with good, insightful police work by Rebus and others.
Rankin is also top notch at characterization. Rebus, Siobhan Clarke, and Matthew Fox are all people we already feel like we know. While they are always true to themselves, they also change in the same way that people often change over time: Rebus follows the rules a little better than he used to, Clarke has grown more authoritative as she has advanced in rank, and Matthew Fox is much less certain of right and wrong than he used to be (he's moved from Complaints to CID). I loved that all 3 of them worked together in this book. I like Fox more than some people (my mother) do and so I was glad to see him brought into the fold.
There are two main stories. A car wreck in the middle of nowhere that seems straightforward is not straightforward at all and the person who notices and follows up in the face of all sorts of official resistance is Rebus. I thought that part of the story was great because it gave Rebus a chance to show what makes him so great as a detective.
Then Rebus himself is the subject of an investigation into a very old case in which the more senior men he worked with as a young police officer are accused of having hidden or destroyed evidence that would have convicted one of their most important informants of murder. This group called themselves "The Saints of the Shadow Bible" and while Rebus was technically part of it, he was the youngest and newest member and we think that he doesn't seem to have known much about what was going on. The reason they are being investigated now is that the Scottish justice system just eliminated the concept of double jeopardy (which I think may actually be the case). But someone isn't happy about having the investigation opened up and people are turning up dead, so the investigation becomes one of what happened then and what is happening now.
Several of the plot points involve Scottish politics: the double jeopardy issue, the reorganization of the police force, and the referendum on Scottish Independence all feature prominently in the story, without being distracting to those of us who don't know very much about the issues.
If you don't know Rebus, you can start here, but it would be ever so much more satisfying to read the books in order, reading this one last. I remember when I discovered the Aubrey/Maturin books realizing that the author was very old and probably didn't have a lot more books in him. He had more than I feared, but in the same vein, I'm happy to report that Ian Rankin is only 53 and should have many more Rebus books in him. I know Rebus is getting old, but I've decided that Rankin can make time plastic the way Patrick O'Brian did.
I really liked this book. It was a great Rebus outing plus we haven't seen Rebus for 5 long years. I enjoyed the Malcolm Fox books a lot and would gladly read more, but it was nice to have Rebus back.
A girl has gone missing and the police, including Siobhan Clarke, are looking for her. Rebus is working in cold cases and is contacted by the mother of a girl who went missing long ago, who insists that the new disappearance and her daughter's are connected to each other and to several other disappearances along the A9. Rebus decides to investigate and ends up seconded to the police investigation of the recent disappearance. Of course he comes up with a theory that everyone else discounts, of course he ends up making things difficult for Siobhan Clarke even as he helps her, of course he figures it all out, and of course he handles the final resolution in a very unorthodox manner. All very satisfying.
He continues his "relationship" with Big Ger Cafferty, which convinces Matthew Fox that he's dirty and some of the book includes Fox's hounding of Rebus. I have to say that I have some sympathy for Fox (especially since I like him from the other series, although he's not Rebus). Someone is, in fact, talking to the criminal element--we find out who it is in the book--and it's not surprising that he suspects Rebus. He's also put off by Rebus's unorthodox practices and I think many people would find him exasperating. Even Clarke becomes impatient with him. I also think it's interesting that Rankin has integrated the two characters into one book.
At the end of the book, it's clear that Rebus is going to apply to come out of retirement and join the police force again. I hope they say "yes." I really enjoy this series and this was a cracking good outing.
Also, I have to say, that as Rebus was driving up and down the length of Scotland, I would look up pictures of the places he was going in my tablet and am convinced now that I need a visit to Scotland. Beautiful scenery and I think I might get my husband there pretty happily. He's a little less excited about Africa than I am (mostly because of the cost, but also probably because of the comfort factor). But he's already confessed an interest in Scotland.