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09 November 2015

Ian Rankin: Even Dogs in the Wild

Rebus in retirement?
Retirement doesn't suit John Rebus. He is bored, misses his work and old colleagues and, of course, is still addicted to nicotine and alcohol. In #20 in this long-running series Ian Rankin brings Rebus back from retirement to help with what looks like a gangster focussed case.

DI Siobhan Clarke is investigating the murder of David Minton, a retired chief legal officer of the Scottish Government. A note is found on his body I'M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID. Then she hears that notorious gangster Big Ger Cafferty has been shot at through his front window. While the shot missed, Cafferty will only talk about it to his old adversary John Rebus.

Rebus soon finds that Cafferty has received a similar note. Rebus is brought out of retirement as a police consultant to help with the case and together the two old adversaries form a strange alliance to find out who wants to take Cafferty's life.

At the same time, big time gangsters from Glasgow, Joe Stark and his son Dennis, arrive in Edinburgh apparently looking for a stolen shipment of drugs. The arrival of these gangsters also suggests that they may want to take over the local crime scene. DI Malcolm Fox, formerly of the Complaints Squad (Internal Affairs) is assigned to provide local expertise to a team from Glasgow who are keeping these gangsters under surveillance. He soon finds that his task is far wider and more difficult and dangerous than he expected.

The plot twists and turns, comes together and then moves apart. It kept me absorbed, especially the parts where Rebus is still able to move a case himself even though he is no longer a full-time member of the police force.

I am fascinated how successful authors are able to keep long-running series going way past what would otherwise be their use-by date. In the last full-length Rebus story "Saints of the Shadow Bible" Rankin kept things going by delving into Rebus's early days with the police force (and gave us a good character build-up for DI Malcolm Fox who gets another key role in this book). This time, Rankin lets Rebus age but doesn't let him out to pasture. The juxtaposition of Rebus and Cafferty is a fascinating study of two ageing influential people from different sides of the track.

It will be fascinating to see what Rankin does next to keep the series alive. I really can't see Rebus settling down to a comfortable retirement.

This book was released in the UK and Australia/New Zealand on 7 November 2015 but won't be released in the US until 19 January 2016.

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