Set in Edinburgh, 1985, this is the first novel featuring Detective Sergeant John Rebus. In the tradition of flawed detectives, he is divorced and has a stilted relationship with his daughter, Sammy and a distant one with his only brother, Michael. Living in a flat, his mattress on the floor and books piled all around him, Rebus is a rather grumpy character who both drinks and smokes too much. Leaving the army (specifically the SAS Special Assignment Group) he has had a breakdown before joining the police force. However, many of the memories that he has tried to block out are about to come back and haunt him.
Girls in the city are being abducted and murdered - girls of around the same age as Sammy. As Rebus becomes involved in both the investigation and with a colleague, Gill Templer, he is also intrigued by a series of anonymous notes, containing either pieces of knotted string or two matchsticks making a cross. Meanwhile, journalist Jim Stevens, is drawn to Rebus in the course of another story and, before long, Rebus finds that his life, and that of his family, is in danger as the past and present collide.
This is a good start to the series, although it is obvious that the author is in no way certain that Rebus will become a long running character and he is still trying to create his background and traits. However, if you are reading a series, I always think it is best to begin at the beginning and get a sense of how the characters develop. Obviously, this is a long running and very successful series and I look forward to reading on and feel glad that I have (finally) discovered it.