on 25 November 2013
When Ian Rankin last year brought his most famous creation John Rebus out of retirement I was genuinely excited about the prospect of more Rebus books. The resultant book Standing in Another Man's Grave: A John Rebus Novel did not disappoint, if anything it exceeded my expectations and was a joy to read so it was wonderful news earlier this year when Rankin confirmed that Rebus was back again in this years book.
As was revealed before publication Rebus is not just back in the book he is back on the force and back working with Siobhan however this time the roles have been reversed. Unlike in previous years Siobhan outranks and has more influence and pull than the newly reinstated Rebus. It is in my opinion one of the standout parts of the book the way Rankin highlights the new position for them and shows both of them struggling to fully come to terms with the switch in power.
Another of Rankin's creations Malcolm Fox from the Professional Standards, or complaints to you or me features heavily in this book. Indeed Malcolm who is investigating a potential cover up in Rebus past has far more of the book than I was expecting and the tension and mistrust between him and Rebus is another highlight.
The one minor area of complaint I would have is that after hinting at a reconciliation with his daughter in the last book Ian decided to almost completely drop the subject this time around. I was looking forward to the development of their relationship and was slightly disappointed that more was not made of it.
All in all this was another fantastic Ian Rankin book. Any fears that the return of Rebus would have a negative effect on the Rebus series have been well and truly put to bed with this book. In my opinion this is one of the top five Rankin/Rebus books and I could not recommend it any higher.
Saints of the Shadow Bible, Ian Rankin, Orion, 2013, 328pp.
This is another excellent chapter in the Rebus story. This time, Detective Sergeant Rebus – reinstated at a lower rank as there was no room for another inspector – is working for Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, and is looking into a car crash in the middle of nowhere. Naturally, they spot a few suspicious details, and slowly the bodies start to pile up, as does the web of crime and corruption that they slowly and steadily start to uncover. Intertwined with this is an investigation by Malcolm Fox – his final one before returning to the ranks of the CID - into a team of detectives that Rebus was part of when he first became a Detective Constable, to which Rebus is himself assigned…
Expect the expected, along with the unexpected, as we see a return to top form with the latest 5-star Rebus novel. As well as some deeply mysterious goings-on to be unravelled, we also get to look into the world of policing that Rebus grew up in and grew out of. We also get excellent characterisation of the regular cast, as they continue to grow and develop.
on 3 January 2014
For fans of Detective Inspector John Rebus, his "retirement" in the excellent Exit Music was a sad moment. But author Ian Rankin knows that fans, old and new, can't get enough of the cantankerous, hard-drinking, rogue detective, who plays by his own rules no matter the damage it does to his personal or professional life. In Saints of the Shadow Bible, the second Rebus book since that short-lived retirement, Rebus has been demoted to a Detective Sergeant, but this doesn't concern him in the least; the only thing he loves is the job. He is united with Malcolm Fox, an Internal Affairs inspector who has starred in his own Rankin books, starting with The Complaints.
At times not trusting each other, at times coming close to blows, the two men must learn to work together on a series of seemingly unrelated crimes, some of which span back to Rebus's first days on the force, 30 years earlier, as well as new murder investigations that cross their paths. All this takes place in the context of the run-up to Scotland's referendum on independence, where even street-level crimes may have political motivations, and politicians with specific agendas either push or block the investigations that suit them. Rebus, as always his own man, has to cut through the double-talk in order to find kernels of truth.
Rankin eventually ties all the story-lines together, although it's almost impossible to follow the many threads that make up the complex puzzle of this book. Fans of the Rebus series probably don't care how complicated the mystery becomes, nor will they question the logical leaps that Rebus manages to make in order to solve the various crimes. What matters is dropping in on this old friend, seeing him seemingly down and out, and then rising again in defiance of all the odds to best his rivals, whether these rivals are other, "by the book" policemen, stuffed-shirt politicians or the criminal low-lifes that he seems most comfortable around.
Perhaps more than any of his earlier books, Saints looks deep into Rebus's past to question his ethics and his disregard of anybody else's way of doing things. He's getting older, perhaps more introspective, but he's still driven to solve crimes and punish those he considers the bad guys. He's aware that abusive police tactics from his earlier days will no longer be tolerated, and he has to manage to solve the crimes while not getting into any more trouble. It's a delicate balancing act that he pulls it off once more in this terrific book, and no fan of this great detective series can ask for more than that.
on 21 October 2014
The past might feel like ancient history, but no one knows better than Rebus how it has a habit of catching up with you.
When politics and policing mix no stone is left unturned and everyone can be hurt when those in powerful places are looking to score points against their enemies.
Rebus finds himself torn between doing the right thing and protecting old friends. As the bodies start to pile up Rebus must put his trust in Michael Fox, a man who has little respect for Rebus, and whose actions could lead to John's loyalties being tested to the limit.
Rankin on top form showing us once again that there is always another Rebus story to tell and this one was absolutely gripping.
on 7 November 2014
This book is still a good read, but everything about it seems tired, from Rebus to the plot to the author himself. If this was the only Rebus you'd read, you'd probably rate it more highly, and it certainly would not have put you off the series as a whole. However, if like me you're a Rebus aficionado, then you'd feel quietly disappointed with the plot, character development and overall feel of the storyline.
on 15 January 2014
I have been a great Rebus reader for a number of years. However, I found 'Saints of . . . ' rather dull and predictable. I'm not sure where Ian Rankin can go any longer with Rebus. It seems to me that he and his publishers are squeezing the last ounce of credibility out of Rebus simply to make a nice few quid. I hope he comes up with something good. At the moment I am finding Graham Hurley more exciting and entertaining, although even he has killed off his one-time main character. I suppose all good things come to an end.
on 20 August 2015
I enjoy Ian Rankin’s books. It was my sister who introduced my mother to his work many years ago. In turn, my mother lent Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin to me and the rest is history. I think I have read every book he has written, whether as Jack Harvey or in his own name and some of his books are reviewed on this site include: The Impossible Dead http://bookreviewstoday.info/2015/02/25/the-impossible-dead-by-ian-rankin/, and Complaints http://bookreviewstoday.info/2014/05/28/complaints-by-ian-rankin-2/. Rankin is a leading proponant of the Scottish Tartan Noir genre and will be attending the Bloody Scotland Festival in Stirling next month. I admit I prefer his John Rebus books to those based on his Malcolm Fox character.
Saints of the Shadow Bible includes both characters and I really did enjoy the book. The premise that combines them is that Rebus is back on the force, demoted to sergeant and a with chip on his shoulder and Malcolm Fox, in what will be his last case as an internal affairs cop, is tasked with finding out the truth about a case from 30 years ago. It is a case where the team that Rebus was a member of, in his early years on the force, is suspected of having helped a murderer escape justice. The team was known amongst themselves as the Saints of the Shadow Bible.
Rebus is investigating a car accident when he learns the news of Fox’s investigation. The stage is set for past and present to collide in shocking and murderous fashion.
The reader is kept guess as to what Rebus might have to hide. Also, at times it is not clear whose side he is really on. His colleagues from the early days back then called themselves “The Saints”. They swore a bond on something called the Shadow Bible. However, rules of the force are tighter now and the crimes of the past may not stay hidden much longer. Rankin puts Rebus to work with former enemy, Fox, as the force changes yet again, and then he ties everything together effortlessly in true Rankin fashion. The backdrop of Edinburgh plays its usual gritty part.
The story is set in Scotland as the country gears up for a referendum on independence and the devisive background of that election aptly echoes the devisive investigation Rebus is caught up in. Rankin has crafted a brilliant crime novel with interesting threads of shady scrapyards, new crime lords, and the murder of a minister.
Ian Rankin now lives in Edinburgh but was born some mile North of there in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. That first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses was published in 1987; the Rebus books are now translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents. He also kindly donates signed novels as prizes each year to the West Kilbride Charity Supper Dance my friends Jane, Dawn and I run in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care. Have a look at my site: survivingbreastcancernow.com. However, the author’s generosity does not colour my reviews. I thoroughly enjoyed Saints of the Shadow Bible and, if you enjoy crime novels, I recommend the book to you.
First Sentence: “Where are we going?”
John Rebus is out of retirement, demoted and now reporting to his protégée, Siobhan Clarke. A 30-year-old murder case has been reopened and Malcolm Fox, in his last case for Internal Affairs, is working it. A link is made in that that case brings into question the team with whom Rebus first worked, “Saints of the Shadow Bible.”
The opening scene reveals much of Rebus’ personality—he’s tenacious…”like a bloodhound with a scent…”; he never gives up on a case. He is described by a colleague as being “…a breed of cop that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore, are and endangered species.” For those who have followed the series, it is interesting to see how the character, and his life, has changed over time. Enough references to the past are made, however, that even new readers won’t feel lost. Set in the period just prior to vote on Scotland’s referendum for independence, it’s also interesting to see how that affects the case and the transitions it has made to policing in Scotland.
A person’s shopping list tells quite a bit about them. In Rebus’ case, it’s cigarettes and bacon. The combination of Rebus, Siobhan, and Malcolm Fox is both interesting. One does see how with maturity comes clarity and there is a nice balance of Rebus and Malcolm being opposite sides of a coin. Rebus’ actions, while in keeping with the character, are exasperating both to his colleagues, but also to the reader. It diminishes the story, rather than adding to it.
Rankin is a very spare writer. He tells you what you need to know, but doesn’t waste much of his time on filler. This well suits worth the characters and the story. The fact that shootings are so rare in Scotland makes reading about the attention such an incident generates both interesting and very sad as compared to America.
“Saints of the Shadow Bible” is a good read, but far from Rankin’s best. In the end, it seemed rather flat and uninspired.
on 3 October 2014
Policemen serving in Internal Affairs units are hated by their colleagues worldwide and their return to normal duty is problematic. Ian Rankin (IR) wrote 2 riveting books about Malcolm Fox (MF), an ambitious and scrupulous employee of such a ‘complaints’ unit. Here MF locks horns with John Rebus (JR) in a strange, complicated and exhausting duel lasting 14 intense days investigating a number of killings.
Early in his career in the early 1980s, young Rebus was posted to a corrupt, law-breaking and vicious detective police detail, whose own nickname is this book’s title. Thirty+ years later, its surviving members meet, following a recent change on double jeopardy under Scottish law: cases once dismissed by jury and judge, can be re-opened. This threatens some ex-Saints more than others: one is dead, another dying, leaving three members, including Rebus.
This very tense novel written in 14 numbered chapters with lots of sub-sections, describes their unfurling crisis during the early run-up to the September 2014 Scottish referendum vote on independence. It sees another return of John Rebus to police duties, albeit as a lowly DCS on probation with his former trainee and lover, DCI Siobhan Clark as his boss.
Once again, spot-on dialogues and characterization and full of urgency and atmosphere. Young Darryl Christie, first introduced in “Standing in another Man’s Grave”, comes across as a worthy successor to earlier Edinburgh gangster bosses. Hope the series continues, but this police procedural underlines on many of its pages that creative crime fighters like John Rebus are a dying species, unloved by colleagues, not only in Scotland.
on 18 July 2014
When the Cold Case Group in which Rebus has been working is eliminated, he lucks out by being taken back with a spot in CID, albeit with a demotion. Reduced from DI to DS, he now is subordinate to his long-time protégé, DI Clarke. Of course, that doesn’t stop the old dinosaur from acting like he always has.
Rankin introduces a couple of surprises in this novel, the first being having Malcolm Fox, Rebus’s standing nemesis, as a co-investigator working together. It comes about because Fox is performing his last assignment with the Complaints looking at a 30-year-old case involving the group known as the Saints of the Shadow Bible because they each swore fidelity to protect each other on a stand-in for the holy book. Rebus had joined the group as a young DC soon after the arrest of a snitch who eventually got off on a murder charge through police mistakes. This was in the Old Days, when anything went and they made their own rules. The Solicitor General recently pushed through a retraction of the double jeopardy rule and was looking to resurrect the murder charge. Rebus volunteers to assist in Fox’s efforts and the two learn to trust one another, leading to cooperation in another more recent investigation involving an auto accident and the murder of the Minister of Justice.
As with the rest of the series, Rebus shines and errs, but his character and ability always comes through. The author has no need of our praise, but deserves accolades nonetheless. The complexity of the plot provides Rebus with the chance to outthink everyone, but the surprise is that Fox rises to the occasion as a real CID detective. Highly recommended.