Rebus is retired from the police but working as a civilian employee in Lothian & Borders Serious Crime Review unit. This is where old cops go to fade away. The unit is on notice as their boss Detective Sergeant Daniel Cowan, still a serving officer and not happy about being stuck with the geriatrics, is applying for the job at the national cold case unit that will take over their workload. Rebus is persuaded by the attractive Nina Hazlitt, whose daughter disappeared on New Year’s Eve 1999, that there is connection between several similar cases of disappearances of young women in the vicinity of the A9 road north of Edinburgh. Rebus along with his former colleague Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke begins an investigation into a possible serial killer operating in the area.
Ian Rankin appeared at Crime Fest a few years ago, and charmed his audience of crime fiction fans. His frequent television appearances are always interesting. His pleasant personality as well as the character of Rebus is the great selling point of his books. But I thought it was a little sad that Standing in Another Man’s Grave showed that while Rebus was still the insubordinate old dinosaur living off whisky and takeaways, and had lost little of his energy over the years; Rankin himself had lost a little inspiration when it came to plotting and creating new characters. The title comes from a misheard line in a Jackie Leven song “Standing in another man’s rain”. It seems as if the plot was made to fit the title, rather than the title arising naturally out of the narrative.
Of course the character of Rebus can carry a book even if the plot is shaky, for the most part it isn’t, apart from a lot of driving around Northern Scotland and two subplots that seem strained and slow the action. These are firstly, a struggle between Rebus old nemesis Cafferty, and a couple of other gangsters, the old veteran Frank Hammell and the brother of one of the victims the young computer literate Darryl Christie. This is probably meant to emphasise Rebus own difficulties fitting in with the new police force and new methods. The second sub plot involves Malcolm Fox investigating Rebus. This just does not work as Fox, quite a nice character in The Complaints, comes over just as another bitter twisted internal affairs cop trying to pull down a real detective.
Despite these minor quibbles and the “Mad as a March Hare” risky scheme that Rebus pulls to finally get the perpetrator I enjoyed reading this book. Rebus does not bother with forensics, evidence, or DNA, he relies on an old copper’s hunch, and that is part of his charm, that and his humour and an insubordinate attitude we would all like to emulate.
Dempsey pointed at him, but her eyes were on Page. ‘I want him gone, do you hear me?’
‘Loud and clear,’ Page responded.
Dempsey was already getting back into the car. Her driver starting to pull away.
‘Thanks for backing me up there, boss,’ Rebus commented.
Read the late Maxine Clarke’s Review of Standing in Another Man’s Grave here