Picking up a new Rebus book is like meeting with an old friend who you haven’t seen for a while but with whom you are instantly comfortable and in whose company you are completely certain that life is going to be anything but dull. In Even Dogs in the Wild, Ian Rankin’s 21st in the series, the Edinburgh detective has finally retired, and it’s appropriate that we first make contact with Rebus in Edinburgh’s Oxford Bar, his favourite watering hole.
His friend, and former colleague Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke (Shiv) is investigating the high-profile murder of a senior barrister, formerly Scotland’s top law officer, who was shot with a cryptic threatening note found nearby. Clarke is a bend-don’t break-the rules pragmatist who knows how to operate in the highly political Police Scotland bureaucracy.
Aware of Rebus’s intimate knowledge of the seediest side of Edinburgh she persuades her bosses to bring him back onto the team, as a consultant. And when one of Rebus’s oldest foes, a ruthless old-school crim, receives a similar threat and narrowly misses the bullet, Rebus is able to move seamlessly between the two worlds.
Add to the plot a putative takeover by a vicious Glasgow gang and the inevitable bloody fight-back by the Edinburgh crews; a police task force interested in results no matter how they get them and the darkest of long hidden secrets, and you have the kind of a situation where anything can happen.
Rankin is pitch perfect not just at the Scottish vernacular but also at conveying the heart and soul of the city. His characters and settings are so authentic you can practically taste the IPA and whisky. (If you ever get to Glasgow you can check out all the locations on a Rebus city tour.)
The teaming of Clarke and Detective Malcolm Fox (formerly with the hated police integrity department) both socially and professionally is beginning to really gel with both becoming fully rounded characters not just shadows of Rebus. The Detective Malcolm Fox series (The Complaints and The Impossible Dead) was once, apparently, seen as a replacement for the Rebus books. Thankfully, Rankin relented and brought Rebus back, retirement adding a nicely mellow edge to his cynicism. Who knows, he might get a dog.
Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin is published by Orion.