John Rebus stands accused: on trial for a crime that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. But what drove a good man to cross the line? Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke may well find out.
One of the virtues of Rankin’s writing is that crime is always, eventually, grubby and venal. Although Rebus might conjure huge conspiracies, the truth is usually far more banal, and involve those old devils, lust and money ... The days of harum-scarum treks across Scotland seem to be gone, and Rankin writes well about dealing will chronic illness ... Rankin is always fluent, always engaging, always ready to throw a spanner in the works towards the end. This is no different, even if the gloaming seems ever darker. For readers in Scotland, and especially Edinburgh, there is the added pleasure of recognition ... Crime novels are in a terrible cleft-stick in that they have to be the same and they must be different. Rankin manages this with poise. Are things familiar? Yes. Are there surprises? Yes. Rebus in a strange way is Edinburgh’s guilty conscience, aware of horrors, attempting to do right. Moreover, the gap between injustices and crimes is put into clear light here. The dark may be closing in on Rebus, but he was – and still is – a kind of kindly light.