Does your idea of a relaxing and rewarding retirement involve inspecting drowned corpses on the dockside, interviewing murder suspects and interrogating notorious gangsters? No? Then you are not ex-cop John Rebus. The former detective inspector, now slightly reformed in his ways – no longer smoking and cutting down on drink – is back in Ian Rankin’s latest crime novel, Rather Be the Devil.
The story begins with Rebus charming a date with the line, “Someone was murdered here, you know,” referring to the hotel restaurant where they are dining. Luckily his companion (and lover) is the medical examiner, so she’s not put off by talk of killing.
He’s referring to a cold case that he’s stuck into, not able to give up detecting in his golden years. The death of Maria Turquand, a socialite, in the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the late 1970s has piqued Rebus’s interest. No one was ever charged for the murder. And when the ’70s killing looks to be intertwined with the present-day beat down of local up-and-coming gangster Darryl Christie, Rebus is all in.
He navigates the criminal underworld, territorial spats between police units and his own health worries while determined to unravel the crimes. Rebus is joined in the investigation by Rankin’s regular cast of coppers Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox, and he comes face to face with his nemesis, Edinburgh criminal Big Ger Cafferty, also retired – if you can believe that.
As always, Ian Rankin leads the reader to Rebus’s regular Edinburgh stops, and he sends the story down some false paths, all the while telling a complicated tale of financial crime, gambling, mysterious Russians, rival crime bosses and fading musicians.
Count on Rebus to solve the riddles at the heart of the story. He might be retired – but he’s never out of the game.