Rankin, Ian. A Question of Blood.

Boston: Little, Brown, 2003.

Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke of the Edinburgh CID, in whom DI John Rebus has long taken both a professional and a semi-paternal interest, is being stalked and harassed by an aggressive ex-con, and it’s taking its toll on her. Then, suddenly, the creep dies in a kitchen fire in his flat — and the next day Rebus turns up with his hands badly burned and bandaged.

He insists he accidentally scalded himself in the bath. But this is Rebus, and even his friends don’t quite knows whether to believe that or not.

Meanwhile, there has been a multiple shooting at an exclusive secondary school in South Queensferry, overlooking the Forth. Two male students killed and another wounded, and then the shooter killed himself. There’s really no case to investigate, but the police would like to know exactly what happened, as well as the dead suspect’s motives. And the guy was ex-SAS, so Rebus, who was in the army himself, is called in by his old friend DI Bobby Hogan to assist. And, of course, new questions come up that complicate the inquiry, as well as the fact that one of the young victims turns out to be a cousin of Rebus’s whom he had never met. (His family is not what you could call close-knit.)

As always in this series, there’s far more to the story than is apparent on the surface, involving illegal firearms, smuggled drugs, a flight instructor with too much money, the government’s secret relationship with paramilitary groups and its attitude toward official secrecy, and the manipulation of public fears by the tabloid media. Add to that Siobhan’s fearful but unavoidable suspicions about Rebus, and this book maintains the series’ high standard with ease.

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