Rankin, Ian. Hide & Seek.

NY: Macmillan, 1990.

Several years ago, I tried a couple of Rankin’s extremely popular police procedural mysteries featuring DI John Rebus of the Lothian CID (that’s Edinburgh and environs to you non-Scots), but I just couldn’t get into them. They came from later in the series and I suspect Rebus had changed and become even darker and more erratic than he appears here, in the second of the series. But having gone back now and begun at the beginning, it’s obvious where the author’s fan base came from.

The middle-aged but newly promoted Rebus doesn’t have many friends, only drinking companions, and he’s far from easy to get along with, especially if you’re a young DC trying to make an impression on your superiors. He finally reached his new rank, after a long spell with no promotions, by solving a very high profile case of child-abductions ultimately aimed at him personally. He also sent his own brother away for drug-dealing, which is well thought of by the higher-ups but gives pause to the lower-downs. He’s long since divorced and the female DI with whom he most recently had a relationship has dumped him for a big-name radio disk jockey. He lives by himself, sleeping many of his nights in a chair fully clothed, his living room has books and LPs stacked all over the place, and he’s trying to ration his cigarettes and cut down on the booze, but not succeeding very well. But while he’s not an especially likeable person, and not always even a sympathetic character, he has the combined instincts of a bulldog and a terrier when it comes to investigation. Rebus is a copper through and through.

In this case, . . . well, it’s not even an actual case until late in the book. It’s just something Rebus stumbled into and can’t turn loose of. He’s called in to take a look at the body of a young man in a squat in a decayed part of the city and it’s pretty obvious the guy OD’ed — but the heroin in his system turns out to be mostly rat poison. Someone killed him quite deliberately — but why bother? Then there’s the girl the deceased screamed a warning at and shoved out the door, who is now fearful for herself. (She turns out to be a real handful for everyone involved.) Rebus is sure there’s more here than meets the eye and he’s determined to find out what that is, even though his new Superintendent wants him to take over as figurehead of new anti-drug campaign in the city.

We get to know Rebus pretty thoroughly, as well as the young and earnest DC Brian Holmes, whom Rebus treats badly as a matter of policy. (He figures it’s good training for the real world of law enforcement.) And there’s DI Tony McCall, whose wife has created a home so neat and perfect, he can hardly stand to live there. And there are all the members of Edinburgh’s upper crust, flush with new money moving north from London, whose search for new titillations form the background of the case. In fact, the Rebus of this second book is somewhat different, more settled and more professional, than the bag of nerves with an unmanageable personal history whom we met in Knots and Crosses. But now that I’ve started where Rankin meant for me to, I suspect I’m going to become absorbed in this series.

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Published in: on 25 July 2012 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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