Pick up a book about the Troubles in Ireland, and you’re likely to find a great deal about the Irish Republican Army and the atrocities Catholics committed. Chances are you’ll see less (at least here in the United States) about the violent actions of the Protestant Unionist forces. The IRA has become synonymous with terrorism, almost as much as Al Qaeda and ISIS. Yet there were clearly two sides in the Troubles. And in his sixth entry in the Inspector Rebus series, Ian Rankin probes a Right-Wing operation in Scotland, the US, and Canada that helped keep the Unionist cause alive.
In Mortal Causes, the mystery begins with the title. Fortunately, Rankin explains it in an Author’s Note at the outset. In Scottish slang, “mortal” can mean “drunk.” And, yes, a great deal of liquor flows in the course of the novel. Of course, Rankin’s hero, Inspector John Rebus, is himself no stranger to the bottle.
Mortal Causes (Inspector Rebus #6) by Ian Rankin (1994) 292 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Inspector Rebus investigates a case during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The story opens when construction workers stumble upon the corpse of a young man who was brutally tortured and murdered. He hangs from the ceiling in a former butcher’s shop several stories below the surface of downtown Edinburgh. Meanwhile, aboveground, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is underway. Because it’s the world’s largest arts festival, the streets are crowded with thousands of tourists.
An old enemy and Right-Wing Irish paramilitaries make life difficult for Inspector Rebus
Inspector Rebus is a former British Army officer who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. He’s as tough as they come, but he still manages to get beaten up more than once in Mortal Causes. One—just one—of the reasons is that his old nemesis, the gangster boss Big Ger Cafferty, is determined to force Rebus to identify the killer of that young man in the butcher’s shop. Because it turns out that the boy was Cafferty’s son. Between Cafferty and the Right-Wing Irish paramilitaries Rebus is investigating, he has more than his hands full.
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