Perhaps you are old enough to remember cassette tapes, or even reel to reel tapes. The thing that happens at the very end of a rewind is that the tape goes into a sort of hyper-drive spinning at 90 miles an hour and then finally, abruptly reaching the end. And you wonder why it doesn’t just break or fall apart. This aptly describes the end of this novel, which has plenty of curiosities and mysteries along the way, but towards the end…. well the reading becomes rabid as you race to find out how it all comes out. The last 50 or 75 pages you read at warp speed.
I have read all of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels, and this is a very good one, though not the absolute pick of the litter. But it is definitely better than some recent ones. As it turns out there are two different, but intertwined mysteries to be solved, and as usual, only John Rebus is fully up to the task, even though he is a technophobe and woefully old school in his approach and tactics.
In this novel Rebus is once again retired, but this time he is called in to help with an inquiry by his one time partner and under-study Siobhan Clarke. A Lord, David Minton, has been found dead in his home with a revenge note found in his wallet. When another such victim turns up with the same note, well we are then off to the races. It’s the old gang back together again— Rebus. Clarke, Malcolm Fox, Darryl Christie, and in an unexpected role— Big Ger, the Napoleon of crime now also largely in retirement— Cafferty. Rebus is called in by Big Ger in the first place, because someone took a shot at him, and left said note for him as well, and the big bad villain is…. to say the least spooked.
This novel has suspense because it is very difficult to figure out what connects Cafferty with Minton and others who have been victimized, or nearly so. What is the connecting thread? If you are hoping for romance between Rebus and Clarke, forget it. There is mild attraction between Clarke and Fox, but it has more fizzle than sizzle to it. No this novel is all about solving a profound mystery and the crimes committed as acts of vengeance for previous crimes committed. It’s personal, clearly enough.
This novel is a quick 347 page read, and well worth the effort. It has all the Edinburgh atmosphere you know and love, all the Scottish slang you stand, all the cranky and eccentric personality traits you would normally attribute to the main characters, who are indeed ‘characters’ and not yet caricatures of their former selves. It’s good holiday reading for sure…. but perhaps one you don’t want to read at midnight in a dark room
The title of the novel comes from a song by a Scottish band the Associates formed in Dundee in 1976, and courtesy of You Tube here it is for you to ponder whilst you decide if you need a further Rebus fix…..