The Rankin Files: Standing in Another Man’s Grave

First of all let’s clear up the title….. the line from the song which is actually the source of this title is ‘standing in another man’s rain’, which is easy to do in Scotland, believe me. Just when you thought John Rebus was done and dusted, put out to pasture, or any other cliche you may have for retirement, Rebus is called out of retirement to deal with some cold cases. These are cold cases about what is called MisPers— Missing Persons, in this case all of them young women. The thing is, Rebus no longer has the status of even a Detective Inspector, so once again he has to solve cases with guile and by doing his usual coloring outside the lines.

Ian Rankin obviously thought that he himself didn’t want to retire Rebus, after a five-six year hiatus, and so he brought him back. One has to say though that this novel, which he had some five years to write, is not Rankin or Rebus at his best. The novel starts out very slowly, dealing with the daughter of Nina Hazlit, who disappeared more than ten years prior. It does not build momentum until about two thirds through the 400 pages. By then, some readers, as the Amazon reviews show, will have given up. But in fact it is worth reading this story through to the end because it shows how the persistence of one bright man can indeed solve cold cases, even ones from ancient history.
Rebus is a man who has hunches, intuitions, strong guesses, call them what you will, and he is usually right. But he does not always get a result. What is true, and what can be proved in a court of law are two different things.

There is no real advance or development in the relationships between the central characters— Rebus, Siobhan Clarke, Big Ger Cafferty. The first and the last of these are on the retirement escalator. Clarke is not, but her concern is that promotion and advancement will take her out of the field… and into a boring desk or supervisor’s job. Rebus, as it turns out, is contemplating reapplying to be a detective, since Scottish laws about retirement had changed. The good news is, there is an interesting new character introduced in this novel— Daryl Christie, a young boy wonder bucking to be the king of crime in Edinburgh. While small in stature, he is shrewd, bright, wise beyond his years, and definitely prepared to give long in the tooth Cafferty a run for his money. The story here involves a lot of reading of inferences, and has some surprises along the way. Turns out…. there’s another serial killer on the loose in Scotland.

While not one of his best, for those who like Ian Rankin’s gestalt and style of crime novels, it’s fun beach reading.


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