I was driving on New Circle Road, the ring road around the center of Lexington Kentucky, and was passed at 95 mph by a police car… no siren, no flashing lights, no nothing. Just speeding. It raised the question in my mind, to what degree do the police have the right to bend or even break the laws, and all the more so this question arises when we are not talking about an emergency. This is the sort of question Ian Rankin’s seventh novel ‘Let it Bleed’ raises in spades. Our main man, John Rebus is prepared to do a lot to see justice ultimately done… a lot includes breaking the law in various ways. Is this an example of the ends justify the means, or should we see something else going on here?
In this novel Rebus is at his most forlorn. He has been kicked out by his former lady— Dr. Patience Aitken, and in a cruel twist of fate, his daughter has moved into her place, having gotten a job in Edinburgh. John spends too much time thinking and drinking, brooding and brewing, and while it does some good in solving crime, it doesn’t much help him in terms of health and hygiene. He is definitely not taking care of himself, and he gets himself put on leave of absence for not following procedure. To make matters worse, his new immediate superior is his one time girl friend— Gil. It’s a mess all the way around for Rebus.
The novel begins well with a car chase of two young hooligans in the dead of winter, said to have kidnapped a prominent politician’s daughter. A car chase which ends in a big wreck, and the death of the two young kids, who as it turns out… did not kidnap and hold for ransom the girl in question. Are high speed, danger car chases moral… especially in the snow and sleet, when they are as likely to take lives and rescue them? To make matters worse, Rebus falls into a major moral morass known as the inner workings of Edinburgh politics. As they would say in Scotland, ‘it’s nae a good thing laddie’.
This novel is a good read… with the real exciting part of the novel at the beginning and end, and it continues the trend of longer novels, this one the longest yet in the series at 360 pages. It is not marked by as much wit or as many puns, but then Rebus is not at his best in this one, though he does once more solve the puzzle he ponders. But there are moments of humor… such as the following exchange…
Chief: “Now I’ve called this conference of all of you to set your minds all at rest..”
Rebus: “Sir it’s unnecessary then for Flowers to be here since his mind is always at rest.”
The next novel in the series, ‘Black and Blue’ will win Rankin various awards. While this is not the lull or calm before the sturm und drang, it is a sort of dip in the temperature of things before they really ‘hot up’ as the Brits would say. Stay tuned.