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by Ian Rankin
Little Brown, January 2014
400 pages
ISBN: 0316224553

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Rebus (and Rankin) fans won't be disappointed by this latest in the series that has followed the Edinburgh detective through his career, retirement, and back onto the force. Older and demoted to DS, Rebus is no longer the lead on the investigation, but this is still his story, and he's the one who gets the results—although, from the prologue on, it's clear that Rebus will continue to walk a fine line between following the rules and making his own to get those results.

Rebus's methods and the question of how far is too far for a cop to go when seeking answers and putting away the bad guys becomes the central focus of the story as Malcolm Fox, in his last investigation for the Complaints, re-opens a 30-year-old case that reaches back to the beginning of Rebus's career and investigates the Saints of the Shadow Bible, a maverick gang of cops who got results using questionable (but never until now questioned) methods. These were the men Rebus worked with when he first became a detective, and he still considers them his friends, so when he agrees to join Fox in investigating how evidence got corrupted that allowed a murderer to go free, Rebus is forced to question both people and methods he believes in.

In typical Rankin fashion, though, the 30-year-old-case is only one thread among many woven into this story, and current events are affected by those in the past. Also typical of Rankin novels, actual contemporary Edinburgh issues, including the ongoing reorganization of the police force and the struggles for and against Scottish independence, complicate the story line and bring a further sense of reality to the novel.

While plot and setting are expertly crafted and depicted, it's the characters—as usual—who make the novel. Rebus drinks a little less than he has in the past, smokes more, struggles with questions of loyalty, makes mistakes, and solves crimes. Siobhan, who now outranks Rebus, struggles to balance her friendship with and admiration for Rebus with working in a new capacity with increased responsibilities. Malcolm Fox returns somewhat shakily to the CID, struggling to find his footing in a new role that has him working with Rebus and Siobhan. Each is finely drawn, well enough that the reader gets a real sense of them, even if this is his or her first Rebus novel. Fans of the series will gain deeper insights into each of the main characters – and a further liking for them. More minor characters are equally well portrayed.

Over the years, Rankin has acquired loyal fans by creating complicated characters and fast-moving plots with something more. Here, Rankin explores loyalty itself—its effects and consequences—on a number of levels, adding a further dimension to a crime novel that, as with others of Rankin's, broadens the boundaries of the genre by adding thought-provoking, real-life issues to an exciting tale of crime and those who pursue the criminals. Once again, Rankin gives his loyal fans all they've been anticipating and more.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, December 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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