Standing in Another Man's Grave
Hardcover: 352 pages
In the four years since John Rebus bowed out of Edinburgh CID in Exit Music, his creator – Ian Rankin – has been far from idle. His two Malcolm Fox novels to date, The Complaints and The Impossible Dead, both fared well in best seller lists across the globe and cemented Rankin’s reputation as one of the finest – if not the finest – UK Crime Fiction authors of his generation.
So, with Rebus having to retire at 60 from the service of not only the good people of Edinburgh but also from the literary world, his return as a member of a Cold Case Squad under pressure might – to some – appear as though Rankin is, to paraphrase David Lloyd George, “squeezing the Rebus lemon until the pips squeak.” Not a bit of it, however, as this is as enthralling a novel as Rankin has produced throughout his writing career.
All Rebus wants to do is discover the truth about a series of seemingly unconnected disappearances stretching back to the millennium. The problem being, no one else wants to help - and that includes Rebus's fellow officers.
As irascible and curmudgeonly as ever, finding Rebus back between the hard covers of a novel is as joyous as slipping into a favourite jumper and sipping from a hot toddy on a cold winter’s evening. Age has not mellowed the man one jot, whereas those around him – particularly Siobhan Clarke – seem to have grown, though not at such an alarming rate as to become unrecognizable.
The settings are as immaculately drawn as ever, with the Highlands of Scotland becoming almost tangible characters in their own right without ever weighing the pace down or providing dull, unnecessary detail.
Added to this is the dialogue of the quick fire interactions between not only the main protagonists and antagonists, but also those who stand on the periphery of proceedings.
Indeed, if there are complaints it lies with the man from The Complaints himself, Malcolm Fox, who being intent on bringing Rebus to heel comes across as the sort of sour-pus bully boy that has become almost a cliché for those who work within every Complaints and Conduct Department the world over.
There is also the fact that, after a generation of being unsolved, the crime itself is sorted out almost within a heartbeat of our hero’s return – thanks to good old fashioned leg work, naturally – which leads to a feeling of “ahhh” rather than “WOW” once the book is finished.
This said, however, the many delightful twists and turns with which Rankin imbues Standing in Another Man’s Grave makes this one of the highlight reads of the year for all that and, hopefully, marks the return of one of Crime Fiction’s greatest characters for the long – rather than the short – haul.
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