The two cases converge in ways that only a writer as talented as Ian Rankin can plot. He weaves a tale that is interesting, suspenseful and timely, and contains references to Brexit, land ownership and xenophobia ... a compelling read that will leave you eagerly anticipating the next book in this winning series.
The Rebus of A Song for the Dark Times is a slightly diminished one — he is drinking less, nor do we find him sparring with local Edinburgh gangster Ger Cafferty, though he does play a role in the drama. The retired detective is a wee bit less enjoyable to read, but he is a familiar character with whom the reader will feel comfortable ... Rebus is still the dogged investigator, able to make intuitive leaps about the dark places that inhabit the human soul and lead some to commit murder, whether in the distant past or in more recent times. Rankin will in time, likely retire Rebus for good, so we should appreciate him while we still have him.
A weakness of the narrative is that Rankin too often allows the uneasy rapport between father and daughter to take focus from the crime element. But it does fill out gaps in what fans already know about the indomitable Inspector ... With this tale unfolding in Rankin's fluid and colorful prose, we can hope that Rebus and his old Saab, having survived one more adventure, will return next year for another bout of Caledonian chicanery.
... a very good novel, but the inevitable seems ever closer for John Rebus ... Although it is billed as a thriller – and it has its thrilling points – this is a crime novel. It deploys one of the most successful tropes of the form, which makes the reader a kind of parallel detective, particularly by using parallel narratives ... It is, in a Sherlockian way, guessable – there are no last minute revelations. But piecing it together balances readerly patience with the impetus of the plot. It’s no surprise that Fox uses jigsaws as a metaphor during the novel ... Rankin actually writes the elderly very well; without caricature and without sentimentality ... The Rebus novels have always tacked closely to the contemporary, and this one (with, for example, the references to Brexit) is no exception; though even here there is a feeling of fatigue and ennui ... Rankin is also very good at class disparity.
Readers of this series will miss Rankin’s usual atmospheric portrayal of Edinburgh, especially since there isn’t much description of the northern landscape. Once Rebus’s old nemesis, Edinburgh crime lord Morris Cafferty, appears, however, the plot tightens as the tentacles of crime link north and south, country and city ... The scenes between Rebus and his daughter ring true with frustrated love and long-time hurt. His young granddaughter is realistically portrayed as a child trying to process and overcome trauma, gripped by storms of emotion but calmed by loving attention ... Rankin portrays the physical weaknesses and tormenting conscience of a man in his sixties sensitively, making this detective story a study of aging as well as morality.
Like Louise Penny, Rankin consistently finds clever ways of involving his retired detective in new investigations ... Rankin hits on all cylinders here: he makes the most of the fascinating internment-camp story; he injects new life into the familiar mystery trope of an outside investigator roiling the surface calm of an insular community; and he continues to develop the rich interplay between Rebus and Clarke.
... excellent ... As the two plots converge, the various credible, complex backstories coalesce into a highly satisfying and unified whole. This fresh entry boasts the kind of storytelling that made Rankin famous.