Ah politicians. They seem to be the same wherever you go. Always running for office, always conniving, slick in front of a camera. Some are quite clever, but not very moral. Some are moral, but not very wise. Some got into office purely on the basis of money. Some are good persons trapped in a corrupt system. John Rebus has seen them all in his day, and ‘Set in Darkness’ has more to do with politics than his previous novels. Except for one thing. THE criminal of this whole series of novels, Big Ger Cafferty is back…with a vengeance. He has rigged a phony cancer scam to get an early release from BarLinnie prison in Glasgow. He has his eyes set on taking over the crime scene in Edinburgh once more.
One of the things that makes for a good novel is when a detective has a worthy adversary. I mean someone who is just as smart, and had just as good an ability to be resilient. Rebus is more resilient than a rubber ball. He’s more durable than a Timex watch in one of those old commercials. Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin. And he has a new up and coming DI to plague him as well Derek Linford. It makes a man tired.
This novel involves three apparently unrelated murders or deaths, which Rebus is convinced are somehow related— but how? Sometimes good crime mysteries are a ‘how’ dunnit, not a who ‘dunnit’ or perhaps a bit of both. One thing for certain, Rebus is getting long in the tooth. Patience Atkins has finally lost her patience and left the man. He is very much alone, except for his work. And if he gets suspended any more, he will be able to open a suspender company. What has also happened to Rebus is that his religious side has either frozen in place or has gone dormant. But we still have passages like the following in the novel—
In commenting on Scotland we hear this— “The Presbyterian ethos swept idolatry from the churches, but left them strangely empty and echoing, filling them with congregations who’d been told that from birth they were doomed. All this filtering down through the consciousness of the years.” (p. 260). Yes its a dark fatalistic vision Rebus has of Scotland and its dominant religion…. which is one reason why this particular novel is called— ‘set in darkness’. It’s not Rankin at his best, but it’s nonetheless better than most of what else is out there.