Book Review: A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin @Beathhigh @orionbooks @littlebrown

A Song for the Dark Times
An Inspector Rebus Novel #23
Ian Rankin
Orion Books, October 2020 (UK)
ISBN 978-1-4091-7697-8
Little, Brown and Company, October 2020 (US)

Retired Detective John Rebus has just moved one floor down into the ground floor flat in Edinburgh where he’s lived for a number of years.  He has COPD and stairs had become a problem. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, his friend and once his partner in solving crimes, has been helping him move.

Leaving Rebus to unpack,  Siobhan returns to the Leith Police Station to rejoin the Major Incident Team currently working on the murder of a young, rich, Saudi named Salman bin Mahmoud, who was stabbed to death in what might be a hate crime.

Meantime Rebus gets a call from his daughter Samantha, now living in Tongue, 250miles to the north, with her partner Keith and daughter Carrie. Keith has gone missing and Samantha is at her wit’s end. Rebus immediately abandons his unpacking and hops in his car, heading to Tongue.  Sam and Rebus aren’t exactly close due to the fact that during her early years Rebus spent more time cracking cases and catching killers than spending time with his wife and daughter.  Now he sees this as an opportunity to get closer to his daughter and granddaughter.

On his arrival Rebus is met by Detective Sergeant Creasey who is in charge of the missing person case, and who is quick to let Rebus know he won’t tolerate interference.  When Samantha tells her father she’d had a fight with Keith before he disappeared adding that they’d recently been going through a rough patch, Rebus is prepared to do everything he can to track down Keith.  But Sam is fearful her father will only make matters worse.  And when Keith’s body is found, Samantha becomes the prime suspect.

Determined to prove his daughter’s innocence Rebus talks to a group of the locals Keith had become involved with on discovering that a POW camp was once located in the area. Keith had been interviewing several members who had been prisoners at the time and who had opted to stay around once the war was over.

When Rebus gets a call from Siobhan he asks how her murder case is proceeding and learns there might be a connection between the death of the Saudi man and Lord Strathy aka Ramsey Meiklejohn a landowner in Tongue.  Intrigued, Rebus turns his attention to the landowner paying a visit to his stately home.  Lord Strathy isn’t in residence, but when Rebus tries to question the housekeeper,  he’s quickly shown the door, leaving him to wonder if he’s found a fresh trail to follow in search of Keith’s killer.

All is not what it seems in the town of Tongue, and Rebus has his hands full as he pokes into the past to uncover the truth.

I very much enjoyed following Rebus on his latest outing…

Check this one out.… You won’t be disappointed.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, November 2020.

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.