Sunday, 3 December 2017

Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin

This is the third Rebus and Fox story. I reviewed the first, Standing in Another Man's Grave, a year or so ago and have evidently missed the second, Saints of the Shadow Bible. No matter: Rankin is always able to make his novels sufficient in themselves as well as part of a series.

Rebus is retired and Fox has left Complaints. Somebody is going around murdering people with no apparent connection - Senior Scottish lawyer and peer Lord Minton, a lottery winner up north and Big Ger Cafferty, Edinburgh's gangster emeritus. Actually, the killer takes a pot shot at Cafferty and misses. The cases are linked because each has been given warning, a note shoved their letterbox declaring I'M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR WHAT YOU DID.

Meanwhile a gang of Glasgow thugs are in town looking for a purloined shipment of drugs. A squad of Glasgow cops follows, to which Fox is attached for want of anything better for him to do. Rebus, meanwhile, is the only person Cafferty is willing to talk to. Things develop. The link is obvious from quite early on, sadly predictable and the subject of more or less every contemporary British crime novel nowadays. But what matters here is how the story is unravelled and the strength of the characters.

Which is where the problem lies. Malcolm Fox, no matter how fond of him Rankin has become, no matter how much story he tries to load onto his shoulders, is far too dull to keep pace with Rebus. Any section with him in is instantly forgettable. Rankin is aware of this and relegates him to the gangster subplot. It is Fox who is placed in jeopardy. Unfortunately I was rather hoping it would prove fatal.

Rankin is a great crime novelist. The noir-tinged Scottish procedural is his baby and nobody does it better. But it has become slightly old fashioned. The taste now is for full noir. And he has let his characters grow old, which means their continued involvement in crime is always going to stretch credulity. By incorporating Fox he has diluted the mix. There are so many senior coppers involved here that I lost track. I enjoyed it, but was not blown away. Still, it won't stop me reading the next instalment or seeking out Saints of the Shadow Bible, which, if nothing else, has a much better title.

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