Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin: A review

Saints of the Shadow BibleSaints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Rebus flirted with retirement for a while but found out it didn't suit him. He went back to the Borders and Lothian Police in a civilian capacity, working on cold cases, in Standing in Another Man's Grave but that just increased his itch to get back into the fray once again.

When the retirement rules were loosened, allowing old guys like him to continue to work, he applied to get back in harness. He was given a job, but since the police had no openings for Detective Inspectors, he had to take a position as a Detective Sergeant. That's all right with Rebus. For him, it's never been about the title; it's all about the work.

Ironically, DS Rebus's boss is his former DS, now Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke. Together again but now in reversed positions, the two are still an effective team.

Rebus is investigating a car accident where a young woman has been injured when news arrives that a case that he worked on 30 years before is being reopened. Rebus had been a rookie policeman at the time and the team that he became a part of was suspected of helping a murderer escape justice in furtherance of their own pursuit of getting bad guys off the streets. In that pursuit, they often chose to be judge, jury, and executioner. As the new guy on the team, it's not clear just how much a part of all that Rebus ever was.

Malcolm Fox, the internal affairs (The Complaints) cop, is charged with finding out the truth and exposing the miscreants. He has butted heads with Rebus before and now he needs to get his cooperation in finding out the truth about the 30 year old case.

Soon, though, the past collides with the present as assaults and murders in the present day seem to be tied in somehow to that old case. Rebus signs on to help Fox with his inquiries, but is he really to be trusted?

Back in the day, Rebus' colleagues in the old unit called themselves "The Saints" and they swore an oath of allegiance to each other on something they called the "Shadow Bible," really just a copy of Scots Criminal Law. And so they were known as the "Saints of the Shadow Bible." Some of them still hold to those oaths all these years later.

All of this - crimes of the past mixed with crimes of the present - is overlaid with the stench of politics as the campaign to decide Scotland's future heats up and everyone is choosing sides.

Ian Rankin has skillfully brought together his two detectives, Fox and Rebus, in this tale. The two start out from a position of distrust and contempt but somehow manage to work together as their desire to solve the puzzle preempts their personal feelings. This is to be Malcolm Fox's last case with the internal affairs unit. One is left wondering if perhaps he and Rebus have a future together.

Meantime, it turns out that the irascible Rebus has his admirers among those of his colleagues who appreciate diligent police work. Thus, we get these thoughts from a young woman who has just helped him find some information that he needed on the computer, even though she knows their superior, James Page would not approve. As he leaves the room to do his legwork, she stares at the computer screen.

"Maybe," she said to herself. "Just maybe..." She fixed her eyes on the the doorway. She hadn't known John Rebus long, but she knew he was good at this, like a bloodhound given a scent and then left to do what it was best at. Form-filing and protocols and budget meetings were not Rebus's thing - never had been and never would be. His knowledge of the Internet was rudimentary and his people skills were woeful. But she would lie for him to James Page, and take the rap if caught. Because he was a breed of cop that wasn't supposed to exist anymore, a rare and endangered species.

And she would miss his kind when they did - as they would - eventually vanish from the world.


We will all miss Rebus should he vanish from our world of detective fiction, as he did once before after Exit Music.  But let's hope that that doesn't happen again for a long, long time.


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