Even Dogs in The Wild
Orion Books £19.99 hardback
THERE can be little doubt that John Rebus is the second most famous detective created by an Edinburgh author.
Now the 20th novel in Rankin’s series sees his most famous creation emulating Sherlock with the status of "consulting detective".
A character rivalling Frank Sinatra for comebacks, Rebus may have retired from the police a second time, but as Arthur Conon Doyle discovered after he tried to kill off Holmes, it is hard to keep a popular sleuth down. And Rankin does not even have to go so far as resurrect his detective from a watery grave, just summon him from the Oxford Bar.
With his former protégée Siobhan Clarke now an inspector and forming a professional and possibly personal partnership with former complaints investigator Malcolm Fox, the vacancy for Rebus’s own version of Watson is almost taken by an unlikely figure, Rebus’s old nemesis Big Ger Cafferty.
When someone takes a pot shot at the Edinburgh crime boss, the only person he will speak to about it is Rebus, who soon uncovers connections to the death of a prominent lawyer and a lottery winner.
At the same time Fox refuses to sit quietly in a corner when reluctantly attached to a surveillance unit from Glasgow – the creation of PoliceScotland having broken down the old territorial barriers – and does some snooping of his own, inadvertently stepping into a potential east-west gang war and a case involving a missing Inverness haulage contractor.
If Rebus threatens to show a softer side after seemingly being adopted by a stray dog, the evil at the heart of the investigation is as hard hitting as Rankin regulars can expect, revolving around a legacy of corruption and the abuse of power that is all too familiar from newspaper headlines of recent years.
To lighten the tone, the dialogue is as sharply witty as ever as Rebus follows leads as far as Ullapool before making a side trip to Tongue to see his daughter – the relationship between parents and children is a recurrent theme in the book.
There is an inevitable feeling that time is catching up with Rankin’s universe. Rebus has already been put out to grass, although there seems to be no danger of his investing in an allotment, while Cafferty is all too aware of the wolves circling his criminal empire.
Against that, Rankin’s plotting and writing is as strong as ever, even the best part of 30 years since Rebus made his first appearance,
Expect John Rebus to be consulted a few times yet before Rankin finally makes his retirement permanent.
• Ian Rankin will be signing copies of Even Dogs in The Wild at Waterstones, Eastgate Shopping Centre, Inverness, at noon on Saturday 5th December.