From the Publisher
“Rebus resurgent... A brilliantly meshed plot which delivers on every count on its way to a conclusion as unexpected as it is inevitable.” Literary Review
“Rankin's prose is understated, yet his canvas of Scotland's criminal underclass has a panoramic breadth. His ear for dialogue is as sharp as a switchblade. This is, quite simply, crime writing of the highest order.” Daily Express
“...the whole is held together by Rankin's drum-tight characterization of Rebus as a man deeply shaken in his convictions, but unwilling to fall apart.” Publishers Weekly
Rough Times for Inspector Rebus
The dead souls who parade through the pages of Ian Rankin's latest novel -- his 12th in the long-running series featuring Chief Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh CID -- assume a wide variety of forms. Some are ghosts, specters of murder investigations past and present. Some are criminals: murderers, pedophiles, moral bankrupts of every sort. And one -- at least potentially -- is Rebus himself, who has come dangerously close to losing his ethical bearings and becoming like the people he is paid to hunt down.
Dead Souls opens at a particularly vulnerable moment in Rebus's perpetually disordered life. He is still mourning the recent death of his friend and mentor, Jack Morton. His daughter Sammy, product of a marriage that has long since ended in divorce, is crippled and confined to a wheelchair, the victim of a hit-and-run driver whose actual target had been Rebus himself. He is drinking more than he should and alienating his superiors, his fellow officers, and his current live-in lover, the aptly named Patience Aitken. These various personal crises form the emotional backdrop against which Rankin skillfully deploys a complex, ultimately interconnected series of criminal investigations.
The first of the novel's numerous narrative threads concerns the suicide of an up-and-coming Edinburgh policeman named Jim Margolies, who inexplicably leaps from the top of a local landmark called Salisbury Crag. A second, apparently unrelated thread concerns the fate of a recently released pedophile named Darren Rough. Darren is attempting to live a quiet, anonymous life in an Edinburgh housing project called Greenfield when he is "outed" to a local newspaper by John Rebus. This pointlessly vindictive action inflames the community and results, inevitably, in violence. Darren's presence in Edinburgh is directly connected to another of the novel's central narrative threads: the Shiellion case, a highly publicized affair in which the adult guardians of a church-sponsored children's home stand accused of the
long-term, systematic abuse of the children under their care.
All of this is further complicated by two additional factors. In the first of these, Rebus receives a phone call from Janice Mee, a former high school flame whose 19-year-old son has just gone missing. Rebus's subsequent involvement with Janice stirs up long-buried memories and tantalizes him with images of paths he might have taken. The second complication results from the unexpected arrival of Cary Oakes, a convicted serial killer who has just completed a 15-year sentence in the American prison system. Oakes has returned home to Edinburgh to settle some old scores and to engage the locals -- Rebus among them -- in a series of sadistic games. His various manipulations reach into every corner of this complicated book,
radically affecting the lives and relationships of many of its central characters.
Dead Souls is neither a simple narrative nor a neatly constructed one. It is, rather, a kitchen sink sort of novel whose many competing story lines interrupt and alternate with one another, crossing and recrossing endlessly as they slowly begin to establish some unforeseen connections. By the same token, Rankin offers relatively little in the way of easy resolutions or traditional narrative closure. By the end of this book, a number of relationships and central plot elements remain unresolved, and justice itself is partially, imperfectly, served. Art, in this case, deliberately imitates life.
Still, Dead Souls does provide its readers with a large number of compensating satisfactions. It is a dark, often powerful narrative that brings a corner of contemporary Scotland to vivid life, offering us a gallery of closely observed characters from all across the social and economic spectrum. Its central figure, John Rebus, is sometimes admirable, sometimes callous and cruel. But he is always believable, always recognizably human.
In addition, Rankin has much to say about the long-term effects of abuse, sexual and otherwise; about the peculiar pathology of the criminal mind; about the universal fragility of human relationships; and about the gradual, painful poisoning of the individual spirit. Dead Souls is an honest, deeply felt novel with a great deal of cumulative power. It is well worth your time and attention and comes highly recommended to anyone with an interest in ambitious, wide-ranging crime fiction that tests the limits of the form.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Edinburgh's Det. Insp. John Rebus is beset by troubles from the past and the present in the loose and rangy 11th installment (after The Hanging Garden) of Rankin's popular (and, in England, bestselling) series. At the outset, Rebus, who's been drinking too much, endures frequent visitations from his recently deceased comrade-in-arms, Jack Morton, and suffers helplessly as his daughter struggles to recover from a hit-and-run accident that's left her paralyzed. Rebus's troubles are soon reflected in the old city around him: violent grassroots vigilantism breaks out in a housing project when Rebus informs the press that a convicted child molester is living in one of the flats; Cary Oakes, a serial killer just released from a U.S. prison, returns to Edinburgh; a rising star in the police department dies in an apparent suicide. In addition, as Rebus testifies in a high-profile case of sexual abuse of children, two old school friends ask him to search for their missing son. And as the cop pursues each of these cases, Oakes draws him into a sadistic game of cat-and-mouse. While the many plot lines pull the narrative in disparate directions, the whole is held together by Rankin's drum-tight characterization of Rebus as a man deeply shaken in his convictions, but unwilling to fall apart. Author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Scottish literature has recently enjoyed a renaissance with the emergence of such exciting writers as Irvine Welsh and James Kelman. They are joined on the mystery front by Rankin, an Edgar-nominated author of a series of complex police procedurals featuring Edinburgh detective John Rebus. Here, Rebus, still struggling to make sense of the suicide of a close friend and fellow officer, is keeping tabs on a recently released pedophile living in a housing project. At the same time, he has to track a convicted serial killer deported from the States and find the missing son of his high school sweetheart. As usual, Rankin combines several complicated plot lines, memorable characters, a touch of mordant Gaelic wit, and a gritty Edinburgh setting to create a dense read that starts slowly but rewards patient readers with a compelling and haunting d nouement. Strongly recommended for all collections.--Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Increasinglythough still in his 40sDetective Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh police has been sounding the autumnal note. The tenth in his series (The Hanging Garden, 1998, etc.) finds him full in the winter of his discontent. Bleak questions prevail. Will his daughter's automobile accident leave her permanently crippled? Has his relationship with his lover plummeted past the irretrievable? And what about his job? Has he lost his sense of vocation? One of his colleagues thinks so. "Something in you has gone bad, John," she tells him. After a stakeout at the Edinburgh zoo, Rebus makes a bad mistakearrests the wrong mansetting in motion a chain of events that leads to a brutal murder. Now Rebus is face to face with that most searching of all questions, one that early in his career would have been unimaginable: Should he actually quit? But then the pace of events accelerates swiftly. There's time only to pursue the links between the death he may have caused, a young man's inexplicable disappearance, and a fellow cop's apparent suicide. He connects them, of course. And in the process tracks down a particularly vicious murderer whose cleverness and talent for gamesmanship is sufficient to force Rebus to the top of his own game. Rebus in action is Rebus restored. Some lives, he decideshis own, for instanceare best left unexamined. Hard-drinking, hard-living Rebus remains a compelling figure, but in a book this long he gets too much time to pick at himself.
Read an Excerpt
FROM this height, the sleeping city seems like a child’s construction, a model which has refused to be constrained by imagination. The volcanic plug might be black Plasticine, the castle
balanced solidly atop it a skewed rendition of crenellated building bricks. The orange street lamps are crumpled toffee-wrappers glued to lollipop sticks.
Out in the Forth, the faint bulbs from pocket torches illuminate toy boats resting on black crêpe paper. In this universe, the jagged spires of the Old Town would be angled matchsticks, Princes Street Gardens a Fuzzy-Felt board. Cardboard boxes for the tenements, doors and windows painstakingly detailed with coloured pens. Drinking straws could become guttering and downpipes, and with a .ne blade—maybe a scalpel—those doors could be made to open. But peering inside . . . peering inside would destroy the effect.
Peering inside would change everything.
He shoves his hands in his pockets. The wind is stropping his ears. He can pretend it is a child’s breath, but the reality chides him.
I am the last cold wind you’ll feel.
He takes a step forward, peers over the edge and into darkness.
Arthur’s Seat crouches behind him, humped and silent as though offended by his presence, coiled to pounce. He tells himself it is papier-mâché. He smooths his hands over strips of newsprint, not reading the stories, then realises he is stroking the air and withdraws his hands, laughing guiltily. Somewhere behind him, he hears a voice.
In the past, he’d climbed up here in daylight. Years back, it would have been with a lover maybe, climbing hand in hand, seeing the city spread out like a promise. Then later, with his wife and child, stopping at the summit to take photos, making sure no one went too close to the edge. Father and husband, he would tuck his chin into his collar, seeing Edinburgh in shades of grey, but getting it into perspective, having risen above it with his family. Digesting the whole city with a slow sweep of his head, he would feel that all problems were containable.
But now, in darkness, he knows better.
He knows that life is a trap, that the jaws eventually spring shut on anyone foolish enough to think they could cheat their way to a victory. A police car blares in the distance, but it’s not coming for him. A black coach is waiting for him at the foot of Salisbury Crags. Its headless driver is becoming impatient. The horses tremble and whinny. Their .anks will lather on the ride home.
“Salisbury Crag” has become rhyming slang in the city. It means skag, heroin. “Morningside Speed” is cocaine. A snort of coke just now would do him the world of good, but wouldn’t be enough. Arthur’s Seat could be made of the stuff: in the scheme of things, it wouldn’t matter a damn.
There is a .gure behind him in the darkness, drawing nearer. He half-turns to confront it, then quickly looks away, suddenly fearful of meeting the face. He begins to say something.
“I know you’ll .nd it hard to believe, but I’ve . . .”
He never .nishes the sentence. Because now he’s sailing out across the city, jacket . ying up over his head, smothering a . nal, heartfelt cry. As his stomach surges and voids, he wonders if there really is a coachman waiting for him.
And feels his heart burst open with the knowledge that he’ll never see his daughter again, in this world or any other.
Excerpted from Dead Souls by Ian Rankin.
Copyright © 2000 by Ian Rankin.
Published in March 2010 by St. Martin's Press.
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