Ian Rankin - Standing in Another Man’s Grave
Rankin's Rebus resurrection is a welcome return
The surprise comeback that everybody expected has finally arrived with the return of John Rebus, the fictional detective most associated with both Ian Rankin and the city of Edinburgh. Five years on from his retirement in 2007’s Exit Music, Rebus is back on civvy street and helping out – as Rankin has suggested might happen – with a cold case unit at Lothian and Borders Police, a graveyard for fellow retirees whose caseload of dusty old files is as tired out and going nowhere as they are.
As tenacious as ever, Rebus finds his interest spurred when the mother of a girl who went missing along the route of the A9 many years ago presents to him potential links between her case and other similar disappearances, including one which is the subject of a current investigation. Cue a step back into the milieu of his old life alongside old foil Siobhan Clarke, erstwhile Rebus stand-in Malcolm Fox – more straight-laced, less interesting and second fiddle here as he is in the fans’ affections – and Rebus’ Moriarty, ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty.
The question of whether or not Rankin is a genuinely good writer is cancelled out in a way that it wasn’t by his enjoyable but somehow unsatisfying non-Rebus books. He’s simply an incredible Rebus writer, and the true tension in this story is between the capable, intelligent sleuth and his barely-concealed self-destructive urges. Rankin’s writing, like Rebus, is most exposed when it’s trying to be too smart or clever, and at its best when it runs on pure instinct. Five more years would be much too long a wait.