Sunday, 1 December 2013

Book review: "Saints of the Shadow Bible", by Ian Rankin

After two off-beat tomes, Ian Rankin has dragged his famous anti-hero, John Rebus, out of retirement and back into CID. Demoted from Detective-Inspector to Detective-Sergeant, his old colleague and foil Siobhan is now his boss.

The two friends are called out to the site of a late-night car crash near Edinburgh airport. No-one died, and the female driver is soon released from hospital. But Rebus thinks the woman was a passenger. So how did she get into the driver's seat, and who was the driver? When it turns out she is the girlfriend of the son of Scotland's Justice Minister, a train of events starts that might cost Rebus more than his job.

For Rebus has a past. Thirty years earlier, whilst a Detective Constable in a long-closed police station, he had joined a group of detectives who called themselves Saints of the Shadow Bible. Times were different then, corners cut, and past sins soon start impinging on the present.

This is really a return to form for Rankin. Fox, the main character in two non-Rebus books, is facing a shift in career back into CID and comes across as a much more sympathetic and well-drawn character. The Scottish Referendum debate gets more than a passing mention, with the major suspects coming from both sides of the debate. The book is of its place and of its time, fully embedded within the Edinburgh Rankin loves.

The plot is fast paced and, as ever from Rankin, the characters are well drawn. Best of all, he has kept musical references down to a minimum.

I would give this book four out of five stars.