Rankin, Ian. Dead Souls.

NY: St. Martin, 1999.

Detective Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh CID has been a copper for a long time and has reached the point in his career, and in his life, where he’s not entirely sure he wants to keep doing this stuff any longer. His daughter is in a wheelchair now, his city is changing beyond recognition, and society seems not to be getting any better.

That growing ennui is rubbing off on his work, too, as his superiors are pointing out to him more and more often. The last thing he needs right now is a serious challenge to his professional abilities.

And then Cary Oakes, a convicted multiple murderer, is released after spending fifteen years in prison in the States — he should have drawn a life sentence but the case was badly screwed up — and is deported back to his home in the UK, specifically to Edinburgh. And Rebus draws the duty of keeping an eye on him and of making sure Oakes knows he’s being watched. But he doesn’t seem to care. It’s all just a game to him. And he has his own agenda.

At the same time, the woman Rebus had been in love with when he was nineteen, and who subsequently married one of his friends, comes to him with a problem. Her teenage son has disappeared while on a night out with his buddies in Edinburgh. Can Rebus take a personal interest? It’s all bringing back memories, many of them unwanted (the reader will find out about those eventually), but of course he’ll try to help. But then, connections begin to appear between Oakes and the now-retired detective whose niece was murdered just before Oakes left for the U.S., and the missing teenager may be one of his, and also a couple of society kids with too much money and too many connections. And there’s the background story, too, of a pedophile scandal at a church-run institution which is now raging through the courts.

This tenth installment is one of the best of the series so far. Rankin has developed Rebus into a multidimensional character, psychologically and in every other way. If you’ve gradually worked your way through the books in chronological order to this point, Rebus will have become a real person to you. You’ll understand how his mind works and be able to anticipate how he will respond to events – usually. An excellent piece of work.


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