A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin: Book Review

I’ve recently finished reading Ian Rankin’s A Question of Blood, the 14th Inspector Rebus book, only three more left to read now!

Lee Herdman, is an ex-SAS loner who shoots and kills two teenagers, injuring another at a private school in South Queensferry near Edinburgh, before killing himself. Rebus, also ex-Army and a loner is the ideal man to investigate and he becomes obsessed with discovering what drove Herdman to do it.

But the book begins with Rebus in hospital having scalded his hands by tripping into his bath, or so he says. With his hands in bandages, DS Siobhan Clarke helps him out by being his driver. She is also becoming more and more like Rebus, a loner who has no life outside her job, and drinks alone. She has panic attacks as a result of being stalked by Marty Fairstone, a housebreaker with several convictions for assault. When Fairstone is found burned to death in his house, after a late night drinking session with Rebus, Rebus is the number one suspect for his murder.

Rebus is forced to think of his family,  because one of the dead teenagers is a relation – Derek Renshaw, his cousin’s son. Family ties are highlighted in this book, not only through Rebus, but also through the relationship between the surviving teenager, James Bell and his father, the disreputable MSP Jack Bell, and also the Cotter family – the Goth teenager, Myss Teri, her parents and her brother who died in a car crash involving Derek Renshaw.

Rebus is his usual tormented self, but it is Siobhan who comes just as much into focus as Rebus and by the end of the book the relationship between them is strengthened:

He’d been thinking about families: not just his own, but all those connected to the case. Lee Herdman, walking away from his family; James and Jack Bell, seemingly with nothing to connect them but blood; Teri Cotter and her mother … And Rebus himself, replacing his own family with colleagues like Siobhan and Andy Callis, producing ties that oftentimes seemed stronger than blood. (pages 437-8)

I don’t think this is the best Rebus book Rankin has written, for me it dragged a bit in the middle and I think it could have been a bit less drawn out, but it’s still a good read, addressing more issues than just the crimes.