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by Ian Rankin
Orion, September 2003
360 pages
17.99 GBP
ISBN: 0752851101

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John Rebus is in an Edinburgh hospital with burnt hands that are painful and handicapping. He insists that he scalded them, but a minor criminal who was harassing his colleague, Siobahn Clarke, was burned to death in a fire that is suspicious.

Rebus was seen at his house the night of the fire. He is thus under investigation and scrutiny for that. He knows he didn't do it, but does suspect briefly that Siobahn might have staged the "accident."

But there is much more on his plate. A loner veteran of the elite SAS services went into a secondary school and killed two students and wounded another before taking the gun to himself. There is no mystery except why he did it.

The detective in charge wants Rebus on his team because he had SAS training before he washed out. Since his hands do not permit him to drive, Siobahn becomes his chauffeur as well as helping with the case.

Investigating this school tragedy brings back bitter memories of his SAS training for Rebus. He also discovers that one of the victims is the son of a cousin. The young man who is wounded is the son of a politician with some clout who has a vendetta against the police since he was arrested for soliciting. He got out of the charge, but the police know he was non on a political fact finding mission as he claimed.

Into the mix are thrown a very close-mouthed Army investigation team who are not willing to share their knowledge with local police. The Goth element of the adolescent population seems to be very much in the mix as does the trade in ecstasy and other illegal drugs.

One finds out more about Rebus' past as he is forced to confront both his army days as well as familial relationships. The convoluted investigation makes for a fascinating story with many twists and turns. Rebus is not only fighting for his professional life, but also his often self-destructive behavior.

Another superb novel from one of the very best writers in the crime field as well as the whole spectrum of contemporary fiction, no matter what the genre. A QUESTION OF BLOOD certainly adds to the luster of Rankin's reputation.

Reviewed by Doris Ann Norris, September 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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