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by Ian Rankin
Little, Brown and Co, February 2004
400 pages
ISBN: 0316095648

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Inspector John Rebus, as usual, is on the outs with his superiors. Forced to explain what he was doing drinking in a pub with one of the local bad guys with whom he had several run-ins, Rebus is playing his usual silent role.

However it all hits the fan when the criminal type is killed in a house fire and Rebus was reportedly drinking at the man's house shortly before the fire broke out. Add that to the mysterious problem of the hand injuries that require him to wear bandages on both hands and can anyone be blamed for thinking Rebus had something to do with the fire?

Not exactly suspended, but on a short leash, Rebus gets himself and Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke seconded to the police inquiry into a shooting at a prestigious private school. One of the two victims was the son of a cousin of Rebus, but true to form he keeps that knowledge to himself. The dead killer was a former member of the Special Forces in the army and the DI in charge of the shootings wants Rebus' input. Rebus' army years haunt him still.

There is a lot of depth to this novel -- there is more than one mystery to unravel. The reader is taken on a roller coaster ride through the highs and lows of life in modern Scotland. The proliferation of guns, the effects of the fears of terrorism, modern policing methods; all are grist to the author's mill.

As in all Rebus' books there is much undercurrent. Rebus and Siobhan are both complex personalities. Seeming to have no life other than that of police officers, they are both flawed but decent people. Some of Rebus' past life is exposed for the reader, just a little, but it is a glimpse into a person who has regrets, a person who might not live up to society's standards, but a loyal, caring and dedicated policeman. After writing 16 novels in this series, Rankin still manages to keep his characters fresh.

Reviewed by Lorraine Gelly, January 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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