Friday, June 22, 2018

Review of Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin (Orion, 2016)

John Rebus is retired but he has a new partner and a file of cold cases to keep himself occupied. One case in particular preys on his mind. Maria Turquand, the promiscuous wife of a wealthy banker, was killed in her hotel room forty years ago. Rebus was on the fringe of the case and now uses his friendship with DI Siobhan Clarke to access old files. Clarke is investigating an attack on Darryl Christie, the new crime lord in the city. DI Malcolm Fox also has an interest in Christie and his extensive money laundering operation and his connections to the activities of a shady financier. A few hours after Rebus talks to an old colleague about the Turquand case the man is dead and a team from Police Scotland parachuted in to investigate, with Fox and Clarke drafted in to help. Rebus immediately starts stepping on toes as he continues his investigation, becoming more intrigued as his cold case and the investigation into Christie’s attack and operations start to blur. Meanwhile, Big Ger Cafferty stirs the pot from edges sensing a chance to profit from his protégé’s troubles.

Rather Be The Devil is the twenty first instalment of the Rebus series. Rather than becoming tired and clichéd, the series still has a freshness and verve. The relationship between Rebus, his former sidekick Siobhan Clarke, and old rival now friend, Malcolm Fox, and his rivalry with Big Ger Cafferty and Darryl Christie, continues to evolve and shift. And Rankin keeps the police procedural elements up-to-date as the organisation, politics and practices of Scottish policing transforms. Beyond the characters and the context, it is the quality of the storytelling that really shines. Rankin’s voice is very engaging, with an excellent blend of present case and continuing series threads, with a strong grounding in the everyday – these are characters and situations that seem real, rather than exceptional or extraordinary. The story in this outing is particularly compelling, investigating a cold case of the murder of vivacious banker’s wife and investigating a current attack against a young crime lord and murder of the last detective to examine the cold case. It’s somewhat unbelievable that there are so many connections between the three events, but Rankin handles these nicely rather than it being a series of clunky coincidences, and they add to rather than detract from story. Overall, an entertaining crime tale and a strong addition to the series.

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