RATHER BE THE DEVIL
ORION OUT NOW
“It’s almost impossible to think of rebus without a packet of fags or a pint”
Owing to medical advice, former detective John Rebus begins his 21st outing quitting cigarettes and beer. Readers may find it almost impossible to think of him without a packet of fags or a pint of IPA in the Oxford Bar. Yet it’s police investigations which turn out to be the one habit that the officially retired Rebus can’t break.
“Someone was murdered here, you know,” he tells his pathologist girlfriend, while they’re dining at Edinburgh’s Caledonian Hotel. Back in 1978, the adulterous wife of a banker was strangled in Room 316. It was a news story that had everything: the victim’s ‘racy’ lifestyle, her wealthy family and rock star Bruce Collier, who happened to be staying in the hotel for a homecoming concert. Rebus worked on the original case and is still brooding on the unsolved murder almost 40 years down the road. “You can’t let go,” he tells himself.
While Rebus has his head in the archive in his spare room, former colleague Siobhan Clarke alerts him to a surprising development in the city’s gangland hierarchy. Darryl Christie, who deposed crime lord Big Ger Cafferty, has been attacked outside his own home – perhaps another turf war is brewing.
In recent years, Rankin’s novels have involved a threeway partnership between Clarke, Rebus and Malcolm Fox, his former nemesis in police anti-corruption. Rather Be The Devil is no different, although there’s discord resulting from Fox’s promotion to the Scottish Crime Campus, a combined investigative force based in Gartcosh. Rankin presumably has his sources, in order to be able to pen such a convincing portrayal of the new set-up and depict the resulting discontent among the capital’s CID officers.
Rebus is clearly well out of it, as this slick, professional Police Scotland operation isn’t his style. Nevertheless, he’s a superior detective with a hardwon knowledge of Edinburgh’s underworld, although he now catches up with Cafferty over an Americano in Starbucks, rather than a pint. When Rebus finds a connection between the cold case and a recent murder, the senior investigating officer is stubbornly resistant. But Clarke and Fox realise Rebus is getting closer to the heart of a case which involves money laundering in Scotland’s financial centre.
For all that it deals with the nitty-gritty of police politics and procedural work, the 21st Rebus is admirably concise. Rather Be The Devil is an intricate, evocative Edinburgh mystery that builds to a bloody finale. Retirement may not suit Rebus but it’s resulted in yet another brilliant book in Rankin’s revived crime series.