Another ghost in need of justice. Rebus had confessed to her once, after too many late-night drinks in the Oxford Bar, that he saw ghosts. Or didn’t see them so much as sense them. All the cases, the innocent — and not so innocent — victims . . . all those lives turned into CID files . . . They were always more than that to him. He’d seemed to see it as a failing, but Siobhan hadn’t agreed.
We wouldn’t be human if they didn’t get to us, she’d told him. His look had stilled her with its cynicism, as if he were saying that “human” was the one thing they weren’t supposed to be.
Thanks to sickness, a little bit of travel, and general increased busy-ness in my non-blog life, I almost missed my monthly check-in with John Rebus. Thankfully, for my Bookish-OCD, I made it just in time. Even better? This was one of the best in the series.
Rebus’ drinking and displeasure at Gill Templar’s handling of a murder investigation results in him being sent back to school. Literally. There’s a “retraining” course at the Police College for long-serving officers with discipline problems — sort of a last chance before the end of the road. These detectives are pretty similar, they’ve (mostly) been at this for years and aren’t going to change, no matter what happens in the course. Most of them know each other by reputation, Rebus is well-known, apparently — and he knows another classmate by reputation, he’s “the Glasgow Rebus.” After some counseling sessions, and some class lectures, the detectives are given a cold case to work to help learn something about teamwork. A couple of the detectives were associated with the original investigation in Glasgow, and even Rebus brushed up against it in Edinburgh. It’s not so clear how much teamwork is being learned, it’s clear that there are people who know things about the case that aren’t in the files — and they’re not sharing.
There is something about the case that could involve Big Ger, so guess who gets volunteered to talk to him? Rebus is not the only one talking to Cafferty, Siobhan Clarke (now a DS) has a couple of conversations with him. Watching Cafferty try to treat the two of the similarly, with different results, was quite entertaining — Clarke reacts to him differently than Rebus, but she doesn’t take the same angle with him that I think most would. I look forward to seeing the two of them lock horns in the future.
Speaking of Siobhan — never call her Shiv, by the way — once again, she threatened to take over the book for the first half or so. Rebus’ drinking with the other problem police and their cold case just didn’t grab my attention at first. But Siobhan’s dealing with the investigation — without her mentor to bounce ideas off of — and the various and sundry male detectives around her. Some of which work with her just fine, others . . . not so much — at the end of the day, DS Clarke is the one who puts the case together, and in a pretty compelling way. Did I enjoy things a little bit more when Rebus came along to interact with a bit? Yeah, but it wasn’t necessary. I also like the way that Rebus and Templar were the ones (along with Siobhan herself) noticing her doing things like Rebus this time, not just other police. He’s clearly left his stamp on her — for good or ill, the trick is watching her approach things the way he would, but remaining her own person. Which she has so far — and, I bet, will continue to do so.
But this is a Rebus novel, at the end of the day, and he does get the better material — as I mentioned, he interacts with Siobhan some because he and the others come to Edinburgh to follow a pretty shaky lead (mostly, it’s an excuse to get away from the college and drink somewhere else). Around this point, that storyline became more intriguing — and it did end up being the better part of the novel.
No one will ever say that the Rebus novels are a fun romp, but there was something about Rankin’s writing in Resurrection Men that seemed darker than usual — not a darkness because of violence or anything, just in the telling. Everything seemed worse, everything seemed sinister — it’s hard to put my finger on it exactly, but there was something grim going on. Yeah, I laughed a couple of times, smiled more often than that, but overall, the noir in this book was blacker. We see areas of Rebus’ psyche we haven’t seen much of before — ditto for Clarke — we also get some good Rebus/Cafferty backstory.
The structure of this novel is the real star — it was just perfect — we get a couple of mysteries to watch our detectives solve, plus a couple of other things go on. It even seems like Rankin doles out the information in an unusual way, only telling us what we need to know when we need to know it — there are times when we’re more in the dark than Rebus because he’s hiding the information from his fellow Last-Chancers and us (what does that say about Rankin’s readers?), but it works — this isn’t a case of a mystery writer cheating, it’s a deliberate attempt to build suspense. Complex without being complicated, brilliantly plotted but not in a way that feels totally organic. At a certain point, the way that all the storylines end up seem inevitable (even when you’re still not sure who the various killers are going to be), yet you’re surprised when the inevitable happens. But along the way, each step in the stories, each reveal, each development catches you off guard. Just fantastic structure to the book.
I thought it was strange that Rankin started this one off (I’m guessing for the American edition only) with a little description of the Scottish Police’s organization and rankings, which was nice (but most readers can figure it out on their own). Also included was a list of the cast of characters — organized by storyline. That was helpful, too. Unnecessary, but very nice. I’m not sure why these were used, but I’ll take them.
This one checked almost every one of my boxes — at least once, and never didn’t hold my interest. Rankin clearly knows what he’s doing and you should read this one — and the twelve before it.