Wander around any bookshop these days and it's hard to avoid books declaring their authors to be "The New Ian Rankin". No-one reading "Saints of the Shadow Bible" can fail to see why authors and publishers would like their books to be associated in readers' minds with Ian Rankin. The latest Rebus novel finds the author at the very top of his game. The result is a beautifully plotted book in which two main storylines move forward in a totally convincing and utterly compelling way. It's been a while since we've read a 300+ page novel at a single sitting, but we did on this occasion, and reached the extremely satisfying and perfectly crafted ending with a sense of genuine regret that there were no more pages to turn.
After a period in retirement and, in "Standing in Another Man's Grave", a spell as a civilian with Lothian and Borders Police's Serious Crime Review Unit, we find Rebus back as a real policemen, re-employed as a Detective Sergeant. One strand of the plot kicks off when a young woman is found unconscious at the wheel of her crashed car. Something doesn't seem right to Rebus and his boss, Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, and their interest deepens when it emerges that the woman's boyfriend is the son of the Scottish Justice Minister and that neither wants to talk about the circumstances of the crash. Then there is an unexplained attack.
Meanwhile Inspector Malcolm Fox has been asked by the Scottish Solicitor General to reopen a 30 year old murder inquiry, a case in which a trial that should have led to a straightforward conviction collapsed because of police incompetence, or was it police corruption and collusion? The team of detectives who originally investigated the case, based at the long-closed Summerhall Police Station, had a record of getting results, but also a reputation for ignoring rules and procedures. And a very young and inexperienced Detective Constable John Rebus had become a member of the team shortly before things went so badly wrong. Fox believes that the newly re-employed Detective Sergeant is his best way into the investigation, but is unsure where Rebus's real loyalties lie. But then, so is Rebus himself...
The interplay between the characters of John Rebus and Siobhan Clarke added much to the earlier Rebus books, while the tensions between Rebus and Malcolm Fox were at the heart of "Standing in Another Man's Grave". In many ways "Saints of the Shadow Bible" can be thought of as having three main characters (four, if you count Edinburgh itself), and it is fascinating to see the way those characters evolve into what are, for all three, the rather different roles in which we now find them. This is a must-read book for all Rebus and Rankin fans out there: but if you've never come across either before (after spending several decades on a desert island, perhaps), you should read this book anyway.