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by Ian Rankin
Little, Brown & Company, January 2003
440 pages
ISBN: 0316766844

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I hope it's a sign. This is the first 2003 book I've read and if the upcoming year in mystery is anything like this book, oh, boy, I'll be a happy little reviewer.

For some reason, in the past, when I tried Rankin, we just didn't click, but he's got such a good reputation, and it's been a while since I read anything of his, so I thought I'd try this latest John Rebus. It was a good long read, and seldom flagged; I made a good decision.

It's difficult to tell you too much about the plot, because there's a lovely twist early in the book and I don't want to spoil it; I'll say only that things aren't what they appear. And I've figured out, only recently, that something I like in mystery is when things, or people are not what they seem to be.

Rebus is at Tulliallan, which is the Scottish Police College for a sort of "polish", a brush-up. This is where new cops are trained but also some of the force's troublemakers are sent to try to be redeemed, or "resurrected". Rebus is thrown in with several other cops who are given a cold case to try and solve, to work on team skills, and try not to be such pains. Most of the group are, like Rebus, not exactly very good with authority.

Given that Rebus' sole task is not the solving of the case, he's very busy. However, this case is complicated and it's important to pay attention to getting it solved, since it could mean that these borderline police officers remain on their respective police forces. Rebus shuttles between his home base of Edinburgh and Tulliallan. While home, he tries (not too well) to deal with an on-going relationship, as well as on-going cases he's not supposed to look at while on this assignment. 

Rebus is not a shining example of police behavior. Okay, of behavior in general. He's interesting, for sure, and engaging and smart, but oh, man, maybe the "rules" are different in Scotland, but when the designated driver is the one who's only had a few beers, I get nervous. These guys drink and carouse like crazy. On the other hand, Rebus is canny enough to be able to deal with some of the bad guys in order to deal with the worse guys, and that's never easy for a cop to manage. That he can get the trust of "the Weasel" really says something about Rebus' abilities.

Rebus' usual partner, the skilled and savvy Siobhan Clarke, is coping with a new partner, the overly-enthusiastic Davie Hynds, who really asks her if she wants to be the good cop or the bad cop when they simply go to question someone. Too many television shows for him, I think.

Comparisons in mystery are often not very useful, (especially cover copy), but I did find myself thinking of Stephen Booth when I read Resurrection Men and that is intended as a compliment to both authors. I've already dug out some earlier Rankin books to read, and again, that's meant as a compliment to someone I've clearly overlooked and missed out on, and I have a lot of reading to do.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, January 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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