Rankin, Ian. Saints of the Shadow Bible.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

A couple of books ago, Edinburgh Detective Inspector John Rebus was forced into retirement by the age regulations. His long-time associate, DS Siobhan Clarke, got her promotion to DI in his place. Rebus put in a year or two on the cold case squad, simply because he couldn’t leave the job behind. If he wasn’t a detective, he wouldn’t really be anything.

And then the rules got rewritten and Rebus re-applied to the force — only to be told there was a surfeit of DIs but he could move down to a Sergeant’s position — take it or leave it. (They were hoping he would leave it.) So now, Rebus is back, but he’s junior to Siobhan. Funny how things go around. Rebus is very much a copper of the Olde School, for both good and bad, and the case in which he currently becomes involved takes him back to his own earliest days as a young Detective Constable.

Scotland has recently revised the double-jeopardy law (an appalling development, actually, and an excellent reason to have a not-easily-changed written Constitution . . .), and some old cases are being looked into with a view to reopening homicides where the person charged was not found guilty. Inspector Malcolm Fox of “the Complaints” (Internal Affairs, that is) has the job of digging into matters at Summerhall police station in the early ‘80s, when cops often made up their own laws to get the results they wanted. Some of Rebus’s old colleagues, those to whom he was very junior at the time, are suspected of having done in a Bad Guy who escaped conviction, and then covering it up afterward. Fox interviews Rebus, of course, as part of his investigation, but the two men begin to hit it off. Rebus has a long reputation and Fox himself is preparing to rotate back to CID, where he knows he will have a very cold reception based on his recent activities, so they’re both somewhat “non grata” these days. And Rebus, who is always honest with himself, at least, knows they were often “bad cops” in the old days, and maybe he can make up for some of that attitude now.

But that’s only the first of the multiple plots that Rankin habitually threads through his books. The second involves a one-car wreck on the outskirts of the city involving the daughter of an industrialist, whose boyfriend is the son of Scotland’s Justice Minister. Siobhan goes to check things out and takes Rebus along, and he finds reasons to think the injured girl wasn’t actually driving. Someone else was there and scarpered, which raises obvious questions. And then the Justice Minister himself is attacked in his home and dies of his injuries. There’s also a roommate with a dodgy brother. Eventually, the two cases begin to merge, or at least to overlap, but you probably won’t have things figured out until the very end.

It looks like Rebus will be around at least a few more years, until he runs into the age thing again, and Fox appears likely to do okay on his return to CID. (The two of them, plus Siobhan Clarke, may end up as the Scottish police version of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. . . .)

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Published in: on 6 August 2014 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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