New Rebus book out in November

Ian Rankin has announced the title of his new Rebus novel – Saints of the Shadow Bible, with Rebus back on the force.

It had to happen …

Malcolm Fox is investigating an old case from 30 years ago – one that Rebus worked on in a team that called itself ‘The Saints’ and swore a bond on something called a ‘Shadow Bible’.

We’ll have to wait until 7 November to find out if Rebus was a ‘Saint or a Sinner’.

November’s Crime Fiction Pick of the Month

I read seven books in November. Six were fiction, five of those being crime fiction and two were non-fiction* – two memoirs. I read two of the books on my new Kindle Fire.

  1. Murder by Yew by Suzanne Young (Kindle)
  2. The Whispers of Nemesis by Anne Zouroudi (from TBR books) (Kindle)
  3. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
  4. Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
  5. Adventures of a One-Breasted Woman* by Susan Cummings (review copy)
  6. At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie
  7. Full Tilt: Dunkirk to Delhi by Bicycle* by Dervla Murphy

My Crime Fiction Pick of the Month is Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin. I wrote about the opening of the book in this post.

Summary from Amazon:

It’s twenty-five years since John Rebus appeared on the scene, and five years since he retired. But 2012 sees his return in STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE. Not only is Rebus as stubborn and anarchic as ever, but he finds himself in trouble with Rankin’s latest creation, Malcolm Fox of Edinburgh’s internal affairs unit. Added to which, Rebus may be about to derail the career of his ex-colleague Siobhan Clarke, while himself being permanently derailed by mob boss and old adversary Big Ger Cafferty. But all Rebus wants to do is discover the truth about a series of seemingly unconnected disappearances stretching back to the millennium. The problem being, no one else wants to go there – and that includes Rebus’s fellow officers. Not that any of that is going to stop Rebus. Not even when his own life and the careers of those around him are on the line.

My view:

I’ve read all of the other Rebus books and the Fox books and so was very keen to read this latest book from Ian Rankin. I liked it – I liked it a lot. It was like meeting up again with an old acquaintance. Rebus is older and fatter but he hasn’t really changed. He still likes working best on his own, taking risks, and having a few too many drinks and a smoke. He can’t keep away from police work and is currently working for SCRU – the Serious Crime Review Unit, a Cold Case unit of retired police officers (like the TV series New Tricks).  Nina Hazlitt contacts SCRU (I like the acronym) about her daughter Sally who has been missing since 1999, convinced that it linked up with the disappearance of other young women, all in the vicinity of the A9. Rebus then links it with the current case of Annette McKie, aged 15, who has recently gone missing after getting off a bus at a petrol station in Pitlochry, also on the A9.

Rebus manages to assist in the current investigations, thanks to Siobhan Clark, who is now a Detective Inspector, although he is not a serving policeman. This involves him in travelling up and down the A9 and surrounding areas. The hardback copy of the book has coloured endpapers illustrating OS maps of the area, although if you want to follow the routes closely  it’s best to use another map as well:

I  was engrossed in the book and liked the way Rankin included characters from earlier books, such as Big Ger Caffety and in particular Malcolm Fox. Rebus does not like Fox, describing seeing him, ‘sliming his way around HQ‘ and he tells Siobhan not ‘to hang sound those scumbags.’ Fox, meanwhile, has got his eye on Rebus and the dislike is mutual, as he tells Siobhan:

John Rebus should be extinct, Clarke. Somehow the Ice Age came and went and left him still swimming while the rest of us evolved. (page 85)

I liked Fox in The Complaints and The Impossible Dead, but in this book he comes over as a changed character, vindictive and out to get Rebus. The contrast between the two characters is strong, with Fox twenty years younger, a stone and a half lighter, with a smarter appearance, looking as though he ‘could have been middle management in a plastic company of Inland Revenue.’ They meet in the police cafeteria where Fox has a banana and a glass of water, whereas Rebus has a bottle of Irn Bru and a caramel wafer, belching as he drinks, and looking a good deal scruffier. (page 73)

I don’t want to give away the plot, and will just say that I think the ending lets the rest of the book down. The identity of the killer came as a surprise to me and I thought that Rebus had maybe gone too far in acting on his own initiative, so risky! I had to re-read the book just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Having said that, I was delighted with Standing in another Man’s Grave. I wondered, along with Rebus himself, how he would fit in with the changes:

‘The job’s changed, Siobhan.  Everything’s … ‘ He struggled to find the words. ‘It’s like with Christine Esson. Ninety percent of what she does is beyond me. The way she thinks is beyond me. (page 188)

At the beginning of the book, Rebus is considering applying  to rejoin the police force, as the retirement had recently been changed, so that those of his vintage are eligible. Whether he does, or not, is left open at the end. But I suspect that he will and that he and Fox will finally cross swords. I hope the next book will not be too long in coming.

See what others have chosen as the Pick of the Month for November.

Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin

Yesterday I received Ian Rankin’s new book, Standing in Another Man’s Grave and it’s looking good.

It begins:

He’d made sure he wasn’t standing too near the open grave.

Closed ranks of other mourners between him and it. The pall-bearers had been called forward by number rather than name – six of them starting with the deceased ‘s son. Rain wasn’t quite falling yet, but it had scheduled an appointment.

The deceased is a retired policeman. The unnamed man, standing at the funeral had known him. He was desperate for a cigarette. After the coffin is lowered into the grave one of the mourners approaches him with a nod of recognition:

‘John’, he said.

‘Tommy’, Rebus replied, with another nod.

Rebus is back!

With the rain now falling he heads for his car, turns on the car’s CD player and Jackie Leven’s voice emerges singing about standing in another man’s grave. Except he isn’t – the track is called ‘Another Man’s Rain’.

I paused and decided to look for the track. Here it is:

I’m trying to read this book slowly, but the plot and Rebus is gradually pulling me in. I just have to keep turning the pages. So, it’s back to the book now.

Fro more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin: a Book Review

The Impossible Dead, Ian Rankin’s second book featuring Inspector Malcolm Fox is very readable, with a nicely complicated plot, and good characterisation. Fox is still in the Complaints, now officially called Professional Ethics and Standards, but it soon becomes apparent that really he wants to be in CID. I’m not sure what to make of Fox. He’s:

… diligent and scrupulous, never a shirker. He had put in the hours, been commended for his error-free paperwork and ability to lead a team: no egos and no heroes. He hadn’t been unhappy. He had learned much and kept out of trouble. If a problem  arose, he either dealt with it or ensured it was moved elsewhere. (page 105)

And yet, he’s another loner, working best on his own, not letting on to his boss what he is working on, disregarding procedure and getting involved in cases outside his remit. He doesn’t drink because he’s an alcoholic, his marriage failed and his relationship with his sister leaves a lot to be desired (although it does improve in this book). Fox’s family life intrudes into his work and gives insight into his background and his relationship with his father and sister. He’s a complex character and I began to think that maybe he’s turning into Rebus.

Detective Constable Paul Carter has been found guilty of misconduct and Fox and his team are called to investigate whether his colleagues have covered up for him. When Paul’s uncle, Alan, a retired policeman, is found dead Fox is convinced it was murder and not suicide and begins his own independent investigations, despite being told it’s a CID case. He oversteps his remit too by investigating a cold case. When his investigations reveal links back to 1985, a time of turmoil when Scottish militants were intent on a split between Scotland and the rest of the UK, he discovers new evidence concerning the unsolved murder of one of the activists at that time.

In the second half of the book the pace and tension increase as Fox delves deeper and puts his own life in danger. I found it quite easy to see who the culprits were because their identity was signalled, but nevertheless it was a satisfying conclusion to the book.

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (13 Oct 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0752889532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752889535
  • Source: I bought it
  • My Rating 3.5/5

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin: an Introduction

I’d forgotten I’d pre-ordered Ian Rankin’s latest book The Impossible Dead, so it was a nice surprise yesterday when it was delivered. I don’t often buy a hardback book so that’s an additional pleasure, even if at nearly 400 pages it is quite heavy.

It is, of course, the follow-up book to The Complaints, starring D I Malcolm Fox and his team investigating other cops. I thoroughly enjoyed The Complaints and am hoping this will be as good if not even better.

From the back cover:

Asked to take on a simple case of police abuse, Malcolm Fox suddenly finds himself digging up a macabre death from the eighties. Little does he know that the answers he finds in that dark period of Scottish history will lead him to the highest echelons of power …

Now officially called Professional  Ethics and Standards (you only need to add Team to the title to get the acronym PESTS!) they still call themselves The Complaints at least among themselves and other cops are never happy to see them or cooperate either.

I’m off to start reading!

Exit Music by Ian Rankin: Book Review

Exit Music: an Inspector Rebus Novel

Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Orion (7 Aug 2008)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0752893513
ISBN-13: 978-0752893518

Exit Music is the 17th Inspector Rebus novel.  The Crime Thriller Award for  Author of the Year 2008 was awarded to Ian Rankin for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Having read all the Rebus books in sequence I feel I’ve come to the end of an era as Rebus comes to the end of his career. Actually I felt that he was overdue for retirement, much as he was dedicated to his job he was also weary and disenchanted. At the beginning of this book Rebus is 10 days from his retirement and is anxious to tie up all the loose ends in his current cases, trying to get DS Siobhan Clarke interested in them. So when the body of the dissident Russian poet Alexander Todorov is found dead this is Rebus’s last case. He throws himself into the investigation, desperate to take his mind off the end of his career.

Was it a senseless mugging or was it politically motivated? The Russian Consulate want  Todorov’s death to be seen as a mugging gone wrong but a group of Russian businessmen in Scotland are concerned that the attack was racially motivated. Scottish MSP Megan Macfarlane is also concerned that nothing jeopardised the links and relationships between the two countries.

Todorov had been giving a poetry reading earlier in the evening and was found with his head bashed in. A trail of blood lead to a car park where he’d been killed. Later the body of Eric Riordan, the sound recordist at the poetry reading is found burnt to death in his house. Are the two deaths connected? Various links with the Edinburgh gangland boss, Cafferty further complicate the case.

Rebus is his usual obstinate and difficult self ending up being suspended from the investigation three days from his retirement and it is left to Siobhan to lead the case. Rebus, of course pursues his own investigations regardless -argumentative, opinionated and relentless to the end. He is also obsessed with his battle to take Cafferty down:

Cafferty, he realised, stood for everything that had ever gone sour – every bungled chance and botched case, suspects missed and crimes unsolved. The man wasn’t just the grit in the oyster, he was the pollutant poisoning everything within his reach. (page 170)

It appears that Cafferty is reformed and is now involved in legitimate business transactions with the Russian, but Rebus doesn’t believe it.  When Cafferty ends up in intensive care after a lonely meeting with Rebus on a canal footbridge, Rebus is suspected of attacking him. Has Rebus gone too far in his desire to bring Cafferty to justice?

Exit Music, in which the worlds of crime, politics and business interconnect, provides a fitting end to Rebus’s career, although somehow I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of him. Rebus is the perpetual outsider, and the job has been his whole world. It had cost him his marriage, friendships and shattered relationships and he feels he will just become invisible. But will he?

The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin: Book Review

As the police prepare for the G8 Conference at Gleneagles in July 2005, DI Rebus is apparently surplus to requirements, not much more than a year away from retirement. No-one would blame him for coasting, but that’s not his way. The Naming of the Dead begins with a funeral, that of Michael, Rebus’s brother which fills him with remorse and nostalgia. But true to form he puts work before family when DS Siobhan Clarke phones to tell him of progress in the search for Cyril Colliar’s killer.

Colliar had been killed six weeks earlier and his death was the first in a series of killings of convicted rapists who had recently been released from prison. Items of clothing were found at the Clootie Well, leading forensics to identify the victims. The police had not gone overboard in trying to find the killers, but Colliar was one of Big Ger Cafferty’s men, and the gangleader wants his killer found. He leads Rebus and Siobhan to BeastWatch , a website giving details of rapists and their release dates.

Matters are complicated by the death of Ben Webster, a Labour MP at the conference. He fell from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle. It’s not clear whether his death was an accident, suicide, or murder. Rebus’s investigation is hampered by Steelforth from Special Branch. Siobhan’s attention is diverted when her parents arrive in Edinburgh to take part in the protests and her mother is injured. Siobhan is determined to find the culprit, particularly if it’s one of the police. Then there is the local councillor Gareth Tench, who gets involved and is then killed.

As with all of Ian Rankin’s Rebus books this has a convoluted plot, with several sub-plots and many characters. Rebus as ever, is dogged and determined, cynical and weary, fighting against the odds and wishing for and fearing his retirement – what would he do? Cafferty and Rebus have their usual sparring matches and Siobhan seems to be drawn into Cafferty’s web.

There is an emphasis on family relationships and loyalties, and reflections on power and the effects of the loss of power as both Rebus and Cafferty are feeling their age:

It struck Rebus that what Cafferty feared was a loss of power. Tyrants and politicians alike feared the self-same thing, whether they belonged to the underworld or the overworld. The day would come when no one listened to them any more, their orders ignored, reputation diminished. New challenges, new rivals and predators. Cafferty probably had millions stashed away, but a whole fleet of luxury cars was no substitute for status and respect. (page 257)

For me there is too much in this book about the G8 conference and the political scene and I got restless in the middle of the book because of that. But overall I enjoyed this last but one book before Rebus finally retires.The title comes from the ritual of reading out the names of a thousand victims of warfare in Iraq. Siobhan reflects that this summed up her whole working life.

She named the dead. She recorded their last details, and tried to find who they’d been, why they’d died. She gave voice to the forgotten and the missing. A world filled with victims, waiting for her and other detectives like her. Detectives like Rebus too, who gnawed away at every case, or let it gnaw at them. Never letting go, because that would have been the final insult to those names. (page 135)