"Standing In Another Man's Grave" marks the return of Rankin's best-loved creation John Rebus. After the slight disappointment of his last appearance in "Exit Music", and a string of non-Rebus titles that don't quite cut it in the same way, Rankin perhaps had something to prove by returning to Rebus, but he's come up trumps with this latest title.
Rebus is now working cold cases, and this sets him on a collision course with a recent MisPer case being worked, in turn allowing the story to bring him into contact with Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox (The Complaints). Interestingly, Rankin captures the essence of changing relationships really well, with the sense that Rebus is considered past it by most people he encounters - even former colleagues who once respected him - and yet he can still get results.
Although the Rebus/Fox encounter has been played up in some publicity material for the novel, in truth Fox has a minor role, although this is enough to make the reader appreciate just how dull he is in comparision with Rebus. The story of a series of missing persons along the stretch of the A9 going back years is done well, although the plot is not perhaps as strong as the characterisations, and there is something of a rushed, convenient ending in the closing chapters that didn't entirely convince - but it certainly keeps the pages turning.
Cleverly, Rankin broadens the canvas of the story here, gving Rebus free rein over much of the wider Scottish landscape, perhaps teeing up further stories where he can operate outside of Edinburgh? Not far in the background, old nemesis Big Ger Cafferty is also coming to terms with his own mortality and sense of shifting power balances in the criminal world, although again the relationship between him and Rebus doesn't always work in this reunion of old rivals.
Ultimately, Rankin has produced a really entertaining page turner - by far his best book for some time. It does, however beg the question: where next? More of the slightly stifling Malcolm Fox and his internal investigations team - or the vastly more appealing prospect of an ageing, maverick Rebus set to appear in more books?