Disgruntled John Rebus, the Scottish police detective who made Ian Rankin’s name and fortune, is out of retirement for novel No 19 in the popular series. The backdrop is the run-up to the Scottish referendum on independence, and a demoted Rebus is faced with a present-day jigsaw (the murder of the Scottish justice minister) and staying ahead of an internal investigation into his old CID unit, aka Saints of the Shadow Bible.
Much here is familiar: the relationship between Rebus and DCI Siobhan Clarke; the lonely detective listening to old LPs, the soundtrack to “a long night’s thinking”; banter between jaded cops … And in truth, except for die-hard fans in need of well-worn themes, this is Rankin by numbers. The only point of any real interest is the developing relationship between Rebus and Malcolm Fox, a detective in internal affairs, whom Rankin introduced upon Rebus’s brief retirement as his new anti-hero. But even Fox is a reformed alcoholic … Add clunking dialogue and heavy-handed cultural references and it’s probably time to move along.