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VINE VOICEon 30 April 2008
"Set in Darkness" is another impressive Rebus novel. Set once again in Edinburgh against a backdrop of the impending opening of the Scottish devolved assembly this novel features a typically labyrinthine Rankin plot. A long dead body is found behind a fireplace and a prominent politician is found murdered, both in the vicinity of the prospective new Scottish parliament.A homeless man also commits suicide and somehow all three deaths are linked. Rebus unties these intertwining strands and discovers criminal workings high up in the world of land speculation which ultimately involve his deadliest foe and nemesis the gangster Big Ger Cafferty. "Set in Darkness" is well written and tautly constructed and this series of Rebus novels are good examples of crime fiction , much superior to several dodgy novels in this genre that I have read recently.
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on 12 January 2002
I have read about 6 of the Rebus books and this is easily the the best of the lot. A huge array of characters all unique and identifiable, a complex plot with a stunning ending and as ever the stong sense of a location in time and space all add up a brilliant novel.
As others have said one of the great things about this book is the interaction between the characters I can't imagine any other 'genre' writer could handle such a large cast so well. Combine this with a strong plot which will hold your attention to the last page and you have an outstanding book.
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Ian Rankin's "Set in Darkness" is actually a reprint of a book he originally wrote and published in the late 1990's. As I have read all - I think, anyway - of his books about Inspector John Rebus, of the Lothian and Borders Police Department in Edinburgh, I was a little worried when I received this book from AmazonUSA that I had read it years before. I was glad to realise I hadn't - it was new to me.

"Set in Darkness" is definitely not Rankin's best Rebus book. It's good enough to enjoy - three plot lines are reduced by the end of the book - but to a novice Rankin-reader, it's a tough slog. John Rebus, a moody, go-it-alone kind of cop, is the bane of his supervisors' existence. Not a team player when it counts in solving a crime or two, Rebus is not a sympathetic character. He is, however, an extremely interesting one to read about. He's surrounded - loosely - by his fellow police officers and works with them, as needed. The "loner cop" is one we've all seen many times before. Rankin does a good job at fleshing out both the good guys and the bad guys in his work, and "Set in Darkness" doesn't disappoint in its nuanced character development. I think, though, the plot sort of fell a little short of great.

If you've never read Ian Rankin, I'd start with one of his other Rebus books. They're all described in Amazon fairly well.
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on 2 June 2014
Set in Darkness is the eleventh Ian Rankin book to be based on the life of his detective John Rebus. Set against the backdrop of the new Scottish Parliament building being built I found the book to be slightly too complicated and confusing at times.

In the early chapters we discover that with Rebus's boss retirement fast approaching 'The Farmer' has put him on a team linked to the new parliament building. Despite Rebus's opinion this is purely to make sure he causes no waves in the run up to his retirement, the move backfires when a body is discovered in the grounds of the new building, Rebus suddenly has a live case to be working on. Soon a prominent politician is found murdered outside the building and Rebus starts to ask questions as to if and how the two are possibly connected.

Meanwhile Siobhan is now free from her stint on the sex crimes squad and back on Rebus's team. Despite this she like her mentor is unable to let things go. We find her going to singles night in the city with one of the victims desperately trying to catch the two men that attacked her and a number of other women in the city. With this case going nowhere she is also the first officer on the scene at the suicide of a homeless man who has jumped off a bridge. Despite her bosses telling her to move on Siobhan is determined to discover more about the man, and when she discovers he had £400,000 in a bank account her resolve becomes stronger. Who was this man, what was his real name and why was he living rough despite his apparent riches.

I found this book slightly disappointing. The main Rebus story was simply too big and complex to be enjoyable. Too many characters, too many suspects and it is dealt with too quickly in my opinion. Even the rape investigation that Siobhan is dealing with is almost forgotten about at times and seems too rushed. I would say this, the eleventh Rebus, is the first time i have ever had to flick backwoods to recap exactly what was going on.

Despite this there are some wonderful moments. The entire Cafferty and Rebus section is wonderfully written and extremely enjoyable. Indeed every time the two of them are on the same page sparks fly. Rebus and Siobhan also work wonderfully well together as usual. Their relationship is evolving and Rankin does a fantastic job of keeping this moving without getting in the way of the plot.

As a fan of the series i would recommend this book to fans of Rebus however if it is a one of read you are looking for there are far stronger candidates than this in the Rebus series. Slightly disappointing.
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on 9 November 2000
I am an Inspector Rebus fan and I am hooked. I also can understand that someone reading this book, as their first exposure to the genre, would be a little confused and perhaps disappointed. My advice is - "read this series in published date sequence, i.e. start at the beginning of the Inspector Rebus series Knots & Crosses" - it is well worth the effort. The storyline is fair but also fairly predictable, my pleasure was derived from the interaction of the characters. For instance "Big Ger" is a villain but has some affection and respect for Rebus which is not overtly reciprocated. The situations Rebus finds himself in, where the hierarchy in the police condemns him and his methods, is understandable but still evokes our sympathy for our hero. I loved this book and once again I cannot wait till the next installment. Superb.
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"Set in Darkness" (2000) is 11th in the Detective Chief Inspector John Rebus series, by the award-winning author Ian Rankin, O.B.E., currently the best-selling writer of mysteries in the United Kingdom. And, mind you, it was published before the author was 40. It is here read by the author, and James MacPherson. "Set" can, like most of his work, be described as a police procedural, within the tartan noir school, and it is set in Edinburgh, in contrast to most Scots mystery writers at work now. The east coast Edinburgh is more or less his home town, as he was born in nearby Fife; in comparison to the west coast Glasgow, it's a more beautiful, smaller city, the administrative capital of the country, where you might expect the crime to be white collar, rather than blue, and bloody. But Rebus always seems to find enough to keep busy. Now, just what's tartan noir when it's at home, you ask? A bloodthirsty, bloody-minded business, to be sure, more violent than the average British mystery, but, thankfully, leavened a bit with that dark Scots humor. Written (duh!) by Scots.

The novel at hand, "Set," opens at an exciting moment. For the first time in nearly 300 years, Edinburgh is about to become the home of a Scottish Parliament. Detective Inspector John Rebus is charged with liaison to the parliament's building site, as it is under construction in the middle of his patch at the St Leonard's cop shop. Queensberry House will be home not only to Scotland's new rulers-to-be; it is also the site of a legend of a young man roasted on a spit in the kitchen by a madman son of the noble who owned it. When the fireplace where the youth supposedly died is uncovered, however, another more recent murder victim is revealed. This body is at least twenty years old, dating from the last interior remodeling of the mansion, and is unidentifiable. Days later another body is found in the grounds of the mansion. This time the victim is the well-born Roddy Grieve, prospective Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) and the powers that be are on Rebus's back demanding instant answers. And then there's yet another body; a homeless man commits suicide shortly after discovery of the unidentifiable body, and, puzzlingly enough, the police learn that the vagrant had 400,000 pounds in the bank.

Rebus catches the case of the murdered Grieve, and must navigate his way around the man's prickly family: his mother Alicia, a well-known artist, sister Lorna, formerly a famous model; brother Cammo, already a political power in London. His cop's instincts shout at him that the three cases are interrelated. The detective also finds his old nemesis involved, Morris Gerald Cafferty, ruler of the city's underworld, unexpectedly benefiting from an early release from Glasgow's Barlinnie prison, back on his home turf. And the cases seem to point to the city's former crime lord, living in splendid self-imposed, non-extraditable exile in Spain, Bryce Callen, and his nephew Barry Hutton. One thing is clear: there will be lots of money to be made as Scotland approaches self-governing status; and where there's lots of money to be made, people often play rough. So Rebus ends up working the three cases; his frequent assistant, Siobhan Clarke, has been working another case, of a serial rapist, and that case too ends up thrown into the mix. And then there's a time when Rebus wonders if the classically beautiful, nearby Rosslyn Chapel, made famous by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code isn't somehow involved, as several of the characters seem to be interested in it.

The title of the book "Set in Darkness," can be found in a poem by Sarah Williams, "The Old Astronomer to his Pupil:"

Though my soul may set in darkness
It will rise in perfect light,
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.

Rankin delivers the complex, dark tales with his customary vivid grittiness, wit and brevity. At one point he describes a couple of minor characters: "Big women they were, addicted to Scotland's pantry: cigarettes and lard. Training shoes, elasticated waistbands. Matching YSL tops, probably knock-off if not fake." He continues to give us brilliant, high-energy writing on Edinburgh, its flora, fauna, geography, weather, and inhabitants, and the adjoining ancient "Kingdom" of Fife, best-known now for its slumbering coal mines, and its vanished linoleum factory. The author has been nominated for an Edgar Award for Black And Blue, for which he won England's prestigious Gold Dagger Award. His novel Dead Souls was nominated for another Gold Dagger Award. He won the Edgar in 2004 for Resurrection Men. Ten of his novels have been televised in series. He seems to be closing the Rebus series out now: you want to catch it while it is still relatively fresh if you can.
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on 5 October 2015
This was Inspector Rebus's second foray into the world of politics following his earlier brush with the corridors of power in 'Let it Bleed'. This time, the political context is the run up to the elections to the new Scottish Parliament, and Rebus finds himself with three mysteries to investigate

As part of the preparations Rebus has been co-opted onto the Police and Parliament Liaison Committee, more as a means of keeping him out of trouble than because of any deep political insight he might bring to the role. During one of the meetings of that Committee the members are shown around Queensberry House which will, when refurbished, house some of the parliamentary proceedings until the new, purpose built home is finished. During their tour of Queensberry House the Committee party discover a corpse hidden in one of the rooms that is undergoing renovation.

Shortly afterwards, a homeless man plummets to his death at Waverley Station. Among his meagre possessions is a building society passbook that shows his account had a balance of over £400,000.

Roddy Grieve, New Labour candidate for one of the Edinburgh constituencies in the first Scottish parliament is fond murdered, not far from the building site at Queensberry House. Grieve is a member of a prominent Scottish family: his elder brother is a Conservative MP at Westminster, his mother is a celebrated artist, and his sister was a leading model in the 1970s and is married to a successful progressive rock star. Their brothjer Alastair went missing some twenty years earlier.

As always, the city of Edinburgh itself looms as a significant character in the story, and Rankin captures the atmosphere perfectly. This time, in addition to his own demons (and there are enough of them to be going on with), Rebus has to contend with Derek Linford, a fast-track wonder boy based at Fettes, headquarters of Lothian and Borders Police, who, as a fellow member of the Liaison Committee, is assigned to the investigation of the murder of Roddy Grieve and, though equal only in rank to Rebus, nominally put in charge.

The political context is important, and Rankin plays it well, with Rebus frequently thinking back to the referendum in March 1979, which saw the onset of the fatal cracks in his marriage to Rhona, who had been a passionate advocate of independence.

Longer than its predecessors in the series, for me this book marked Rankin's progression to a writer of serious novels that happened to be about crime, rather than a mere crime novelist.
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on 22 July 2012
I have now read most of the Rebus series of novels and like a fine wine they mature well. Although this novel is dated slightly due to its linked theme but still vey entertaining to anyone who lived through the period. Rebus is his usual morose plodding self but like a well worn pair of shoes nice to go back to. Large group of characters who are all well introduced and filled out. The novel twists and turns to a dramatic ending. I would recommend this as a good read.
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on 31 December 2015
The eleventh Inspector Rebus story from Ian Rankin took me a while to get into. Particularly early on I wasn't really sure where my focus was meant to be, and it seemed to have stepped back from where the previous novels had been with the character to being more focussed on the investigation in question and less on the characters.

Later on though I became much more interested in the story as things progressed, and it's actually got a lot more going on than I had initially realised. There are a lot of new characters or characters that are stepping onto centre stage in a way that they hadn't in earlier novels, and it feels like this is a major stepping stone on the way to developments to come in later novels (we shall see).

The plot is intricate, but feels more like a vehicle for the other things that are going on in Rankin's Edinburgh - it often felt like it was taking second place to the world building, although that could be because the various parts of it felt quite discrete.

So in retrospect actually quite a good Rebus novel and one important, it would seem, to the ongoing continuity - just needs the beginning to be got through first.
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on 1 June 2016
Ian Rankin was definitely on form when writing this and the previous couple of novels. This is another hard-to-put-down Rebus yarn where Rebus flexes his detective muscles across three, apparently unconnected deaths. The cases span a number of years and include a historic killing, a politician and a mystery street dweller with a fortune…

As usual there is a blend of his usual colleagues plus a number of new faces. Siobhan Clarke took a more substantial role than usual in this one which was interesting to see and it seems that “Farmer Watson’s” time on the force may be coming to an end… but that remains to be seen!
Nearing the end I reflected that unusually, it wasn’t Rebus who’d taken a beating this time… I thought too soon so the man himself used yet another of his (considerably more than) 9 lives.

This is a Rebus classic, well worth a read to those familiar with the series and anyone new to it too.
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