enjoyable novel

Let us count the ways that Ian Rankin‘s anti-social Scottish police detective, John Rebus, is worth following, book after book (Saints of the Shadow Bible is the 19th in the Rebus series):

  • He is delightfully contrarian, always finding openings to new perspectives in the cracks between revealed facts, and thus he often surprises.
  • His dialogue with his longtime partner (now his superior), Siobhan (“Shiv”) Clarke, is so palpably believable that you can picture yourself in the room hearing their conversation.
  • He lives in the real world in real time, aging as the years go by (and none too gracefully!) and confronting the many changes in Scotland as it grows ever-richer from North Sea oil.

Two novels ago, Rebus was on his way to retirement, but he proves too resilient, and too ornery, for that. In Saints of the Shadow Bible, Rebus, now demoted to Detective Sergeant under his mentee Clarke, a Detective Inspector, is perched precariously in a crime-fighting unit whose boss would rather he worked somewhere else. In his own way, Rebus obliges him, by intervening in two seemingly unrelated investigations that keep him out of the office most of the time. One involves a car crash on a country road in circumstances Rebus finds mysterious (though the brass would like the case closed). The other is a 30-year-old murder case in which Rebus himself was peripherally involved very early in his career.

Saints of the Shadow Bible (Inspector Rebus #19) by Ian Rankin ★★★★☆

Another enjoyable novel in this venerable detective series

Saints of the Shadow Bible is, in a sense, a transitional work to Rankin’s new series that features Inspector Malcolm Fox of the “Complaints” (Internal Affairs). Fox has been high on Rebus’ enemies list, but circumstances throw them together in an investigation into his old squad’s role in bungling that 30-year-old murder case. As the two police officers work closely — along with Inspector Clarke — they come to, first grudging, then genuine mutual respect, setting up Fox for stardom in his own, more recent series.

The action in this enjoyable novel revolves around the three officers’ pursuit of the wealthy and powerful developer who ran Rebus’ squad three decades earlier (the “Saints” of the title) and a shady and equally powerful London businessman whose daughter was injured in the mysterious crash. Predictably, the two plot-lines intersect — but not in predictable ways. Saints of the Shadow Bible is suspenseful to the end — a thoroughly enjoyable read.

For more reading

This is one of the many Mysteries and thrillers set in Scotland that I’ve reviewed here.

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