Wednesday 24 January 2018

Rebus is back on the case but old ghosts have returned to haunt him

thrillers Saints of the Shadow Bible Ian Rankin Orion, £18.99, tpbk

Myles McWeeney

Available with free P&P on or by calling 091 709350


Ian Rankin is possibly Scotland's most successful popular writer since Walter Scott, and is the UK's number one best-selling crime writer. A published poet and short story writer before he turned to crime fiction, it is his creation, the fictional Edinburgh-based Detective Inspector John Rebus, that is the foundation of his success.

John Rebus, a former soldier and member of the SAS who saw service in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, was introduced in March 1987 in a thriller called Knots and Crosses, and 26 years and 20 books later, the gruff, iconoclastic and hard-drinking detective is still hoovering up fans.

Because the Rebus series takes place in real time, there was consternation among the huge Rebus fan base when, in 2007, Ian Rankin published a book called Exit Music, in which Rebus has to face the prospect of enforced retirement due to his age.

However, in 2012, he bounced back in Standing in Another Man's Grave, as a civilian hired by the Lothian and Borders Police to work in their Cold Case Unit. Now, thanks to a decision to raise the retirement age, Rebus re-applied and is back on the force, albeit with a demotion and a massive chip on his shoulder.

In this latest slice of Rebus' career, Saints of the Shadow Bible, it appears that the past may finally bring a halt to his gallop. An ambitious Solicitor General, the Scottish equivalent of a prosecutor, has decided to reopen a 30-year-old case in which Rebus' team from back then were suspected of foul play in the death of a suspect.

With Rebus' nemesis Malcolm Fox of the Professional Standards unit in charge, it seems like the past and the present are about to collide in a murderous fashion. But does Rebus have anything to hide? He was a very new recruit to a group of police officers who called themselves the 'Saints' and swore a bond on something called 'the Shadow Bible'.

But when the present suddenly comes crashing into this investigation of past crimes, in the shape of the murder of Scotland's Minister for Justice, things may not be kept hidden much longer, particularly with a referendum of Scottish independence just around the corner.

Rebus' career once again seems to hang in the balance.

A gripping, thought-provoking read that highlights the moral dilemmas that face all law enforcement agencies.

Irish Independent

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