A Question of Blood confirms Mr. Rankin's place — for those who don't already know him, although his preceding Resurrection Men reached American best-seller lists — as part of the nouveau-noir pantheon that dominates contemporary mystery writing. Character, setting and conscience count for at least as much as plot does in the masculine, brooding work of Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, George P. Pelecanos and Jonathan Kellerman, not to mention Peter Robinson, another stellar British practitioner of this craft.
Between Rebus's investigation of the school shootings and the department's investigation of Rebus, Rankin has an abundance of plot to spin, and he does so with his usual skill. But it is not plot alone that has made Rankin one of England's most popular crime novelists. This series's strength starts with Rebus himself, who after 14 novels has emerged as the baddest of the bad boys of modern crime fiction. He is fiftyish, overweight, alcoholic, a chain smoker, surly, short-tempered, divorced, estranged from his family, a loner, a nut about obscure rock-and-roll groups, hostile to all authority and possibly psychotic. Needless to say, women love him -- ladies love outlaws -- and his police colleagues tolerate him because he's an ace detective.
The 14th novel to feature the always compelling (and, as his name suggests, perpetually puzzling) John Rebus begins with what seems to be a uniquely American crime: a madman enters a school and starts shooting, killing two students and wounding a third before turning the gun on himself. But we're in Rankin country-a perpetually damp and morally bankrupt Edinburgh-with Rebus and Siobhan Clarke searching for the real story behind what seems an act of sheer madness. This immensely satisfying police procedural has plenty of forensic science, but Rebus knows that "none of it might make them any the wiser about the only question that mattered....The why." Why did Lee Herdman, a drop-out of the U.K. version of the Special Forces, go on a rampage? Why was James Bell, the son of a self-righteous Scottish M.P., merely wounded? And why are two Army investigators sniffing around the case? A subplot has Rebus himself under suspicion of murder: a minor criminal is found dead, burned in an apartment fire, and Rebus shows up with heavily bandaged hands the next morning. The detectives encounter every stratum of contemporary Scottish society, from angry teenage toughs and petty criminals to the privileged and the powerful. It's a complex narrative, perhaps too much so at times, but the plot is less important than Rebus himself, a brilliantly conceived hero who is all too aware of his own shortcomings. In an essentially amoral society, his moral compass is always pointed steadily towards the truth. (Feb. 9) Forecast: According to the English newspaper The Guardian, Rankin books account for 10% of all crime book sales in the U.K. Already a #1 bestseller in Britain, A Question of Blood is bound to enfold more American readers in the Rankin cult. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
If a butterfly bites the dust in Rotterdam, what's the fallout in Edinburgh? A web of delicate relationships lies at the heart of the latest entry in Rankin's benchmark Inspector Rebus series (after Resurrection Men). Rebus finds himself in hot water again, this time literally, with severely scalded hands, the result of either too hot dish- or bathwater. After the stalker of a colleague turns up dead-in a fire-suspicion naturally falls on Rebus, who is suspended for the duration of the investigation. Meanwhile, a school shooting reminiscent of the Dunblane massacre in 1996 leaves two students and the assailant dead, with a third wounded. It all seems elementary enough, until Rebus, with time on his bandaged hands, is called in as a consultant, complicating matters by unraveling the simplistic solutions. When everything falls into place, drugs, Rotterdam diamonds, and the Edinburgh goth scene are all shown to play a part. And as Rebus investigates the school assailant-a Special Air Service dropout and loner-embarrassing parallels develop between them that are appropriate enough to the city that spawned Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A good choice for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03.]-Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Once again up on charges, DI John Rebus defies suspension and scalded hands to work two difficult cases. Rebus's first problem is how to prove to his partner, Siobhan Clarke, and their boss, DCI Gill Templer, that despite severely burned fingers, he didn't set Martin Fairstone ablaze to avenge his stalking and brutalizing of Siobhan. Trying to circumvent Templer's wrath and needing Siobhan to drive until his hands heal, Rebus responds with her to DI Bobby Hogan's need for help with a pair of 17-year-old corpses in South Queensferry, one the son of a judge, the other the son of Rebus's cousin Allan. Also lying dead is the shooter, ex-SAS soldier Lee Herdman. Recovering at home with his dad, a publicity-hungry anti-gun Scottish MP, is the tragedy's sole survivor: wounded student James Bell. Why did Herdman target the youngsters, then kill himself? Rebus is stymied by two hostile SAS investigators who always seem to be in his way, perhaps covering up evidence, perhaps planting some. And too many people are distracted by nubile Teri Cotter's Web site, which shows her bedroom antics 24/7. Meanwhile, Siobhan has acquired a second stalker, and Rebus seems fixated on the antics of lowlife Peacock Johnson and his gofer, Evil Bob. A notch below quintessential Rankin (Resurrection Man, Feb. 2003, etc.) with a wrap-up that doesn't quite ring true and a Rebus too dependent on painkillers and single-malt. But Siobhan-now there's a lassie to admire. Author tour. Agent: Dominick Abel