Rebus is back! Retirement doesn’t suit him despite his best attempts. Here we see him in his new position in SRCU (Edinburgh’s version of a cold case team) – and as usual his mixture of curmudgeonly stubbornness and genuine insightfulness work both for and against his career.
Through a case that appears to have links with a current CID investigation, Rebus is teamed up with Siobhan Clarke – and in my opinion this novel is all the more stronger because of it. Clarke is one of the only people who understands at least part of Rebus’s psyche and can connect with him in a way no one else can. Malcolm Fox (from The Complaints division) also makes a comeback here, but I’m glad to say his miserable and cynical interference is kept to a minimum, and we’re left feeling it can’t be long before he gets his comeuppance once and for all.
Rebus and Clarke form an understanding, so Rebus has enough space and freedom to work his usual magic. He links a series of cold case disappearances of young women to a current case, and when the connection seems to be the busy A9 commuter route, Rebus’s instincts again lead him off the beaten track, asking questions where other detectives would fear to pry. The only consistent clue is a photo of an unknown remote location taken on each victim’s camera phones. So, Rebus is forced to leave the security of Edinburgh and venture out into the wilds of Scotland to track down the truth behind the killer’s message. The storyline is well paced and the ending superb; a real message to all crime buffs how to do crime well.
There’s something about Ian Rankin’s writing that always consumes me from the opening page. There’s a saying about the real art in anything is being to make something incredibly hard seem incredible easy – and that’s certainly true here. Rankin has a balance of confidence, pace, superb location, precision of narrative and wonderful detail of characterisation that at makes you forget you’re reading fiction and really believe you’ve been swallowed up in a true-life crime investigation. I have always loved Rebus’s wit and there are even more funny moments in this novel to enjoy. The dialogue is effortless and there’s never a second that something feels unreal or out of context. For me, that’s the sign of a truly gifted writer.
And as an added bonus, in this novel, the author brings alive some wonderful settings – whether it’s the traffic-jammed streets of Edinburgh or the backdrop of the Black Isle, it’s impossible not to have a running mental image in your head. Rankin’s pride of his own country is obvious.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Rankin’s writing, and even after twenty-five years of John Rebus, I never tire of his character. And Rankin never fails to keep the storylines fresh and engaging. There are twists and turns, dead ends and brick walls a-plenty here, but you’re never left in a shadow of doubt that it will all come good for Rebus in the end.
Exceptional writing and one of my best reads of the summer.