"In a House of Lies" by Ian Rankin is an enormously entertaining read. There will be many people who buy this book because it's got Ian Rankin's name on the cover; and in much smaller writing the information that this is the new John Rebus thriller. People know what to expect from Ian Rankin and John Rebus: engaging characters, many of whom Rankin's army of readers will count as old friends; an intriguing mystery; a familiar setting (it's often been said that Edinburgh is as important a character in Rebus books as Rebus himself); and excellent storytelling.
Established fans will certainly not be disappointed by Ian Rankin's 22nd outing for John Rebus. It has everything we've come to expect from both, wrapped up in a mystery - or to be more precise two different mysteries - that draw you in and keep you turning the page, and guessing, until the nicely veiled reveals at the end. Anyone who's never read a Rebus book, and there must be a few still left out there in the far corners of the globe, will likewise not be disappointed. But be warned: if this is your first Rebus book, you will find you arrive at the last page with a strong - and potentially expensive - urge to read its 21 predecessors.
So the gang's all here, plus a few new faces. As ever with Ian Rankin, the background's right up to date, with the structure, procedures and internal problems of the real Police Scotland reflected in the story. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is asked to join an inquiry set up to investigate a murder. The body of a private investigator has been found in the boot of a car that has been hidden deep in woods on an estate not far from Edinburgh. The man has been missing for a decade and his family have always claimed the police never bothered to look for him properly at the time he disappeared. So as well as an investigation into what is now known to be a murder, there is a parallel investigation, involving Detective Inspector Malcolm Fox, into how the original team did their jobs. It soon becomes obvious to everyone that the family have been right all along and there were major problems with the initial investigation.
Which, of course, is where John Rebus comes into the story. John was involved in the initial investigation into the man's disappearance. He knew full well at the time that others were not doing their jobs properly, but in the way of things back then, helped cover for them. After all, it was only a missing person enquiry. Now he has cause to reflect on what he did, and what others did, and he knows that the best way, perhaps the only way, to deflect criticism and preserve his pension is to help the modern investigation discover who the murderer is.
The problem is that his "help" is seen as a liability, and most of the team view him as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Even Siobhan seems to be trying to distract him, by asking him to look into a separate recent case she has doubts about. Add in the fact that John Rebus's long-term unhealthy lifestyle is catching up with him, despite his belated efforts to change his ways, and the picture that emerges is of a man excluded to the outer margins of the world that was once central to his life. But then he'd not be John Rebus if he didn't still have a few tricks up his sleeve...