Book Review: Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin

Standing in Another Man's GraveStanding in Another Man's Grave 2Standing in Another Man’s Grave
Ian Rankin
Orion Books, November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4091-4471-7

Also available in the US
Reagan Arthur Books, January 2013
ISBN 978-0-316-22458-1

Rebus is back! And he’s up to his usual old tricks. Years after his forced retirement, he’s now working as a civilian in a cold case unit until a chance happening places him right back in the midst of CID. A mother, desperate to find her daughter starts him on a path, a path he tracks to the bitter end.

I’ve been reading Rankin’s Rebus series for a while now and he’s a detective I’ve grown to love. He’s a veteran of old school policing where criminals were caught through sheer dogged determination and keeping your ear to the ground. Throughout the years, I’ve always had the impression of a man, standing knee high in the water, kicking his feet about, disturbing the silt and sand and watching to see what bottom feeders are lurking under the murk. He epitomizes the typical dysfunctional detective that we know and love. A failed marriage, an overfondness for drink and cigarettes and a ‘screw you’ attitude combined with his Scottish demeanour means you can’t help but admire him and his tenacity. But while Rankin has created a fantastic detective, he has also managed to create another great novel to add to the series. Since Rankin wrote Rebus in real time with the detective ageing with each novel, it was inevitable that the day would come when he would have to retire (if he made it that far). Imagine the delight the world over when we heard that Rebus was coming back. Rankin has stayed true to form and brought his creation back as a civilian working cold cases so his age has advanced yet again. This time, pure chance brings Rebus into contact with a mother desperate to find out the truth about her daughter’s disappearance. But, there’s more to this tale than meets the eye. A series of women have disappeared along the same road with only one thing linking them. The same photo is sent from each of their phones to a random person in their contacts list. The photo shows the same location, a location that could be anywhere in the wilds of Scotland.

This book is interesting since we meet the same familiar detective but he’s completely out of his comfort zone. He’s a civilian now without access to all the resources at an officers disposal. He has no authority and is quickly swamped with the changes in police work since he retired. The internet, social networking sites and mobile technology have taken over from door to door enquiries. Rebus is out of his depth and treading the fine line between getting results and staying on the right side of the law. Rankin has weaved a cracking story here, depicting the murkiness of Scottish criminals against the wild and powerful beauty of the landscape. It is bleak; a bleak landscape, a bleak crime, a bleak detective. Wonderfully written, this is another fine foray into the life of John Rebus. Rankin’s writing is always tight, with an intricate plot that is easy to follow. There is also a great range of complex characters that add to the overall ‘fleshiness’ of the story. Standing in Another Man’s Grave is another great edition in the Rebus series. Highly recommended, catch it while he’s still around!

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, January 2013.