Orion | 2018 (4 October) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book
Over ten years ago, a private investigator from Edinburgh disappeared and no amount of searching by the police, including John Rebus, could find him. The missing man’s parents did not take this well and have continued to blame the police. And now, out of the blue, a group of children have found his body, concealed in a car dumped in a wood that was thoroughly searched by the police all those years ago. Rebus knows they searched that spot. So why has the body been dumped now? What message is the killer sending? Rebus’ help will be needed as the police untangle this years’ old investigation, uncovering secrets, reopening wounds. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke has been receiving nuisance calls. She’s determined to get to the bottom of why and, when she does, she’ll find another old case to unravel. It seems that the past has a habit of not staying dead.
In a House of Lies is the 22nd novel in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series, surely one of the most loved and popular crime series there has ever been. I always look forward to them. John Rebus is an old friend, although these days we must worry for him. He’s unwell. And, retired, he’s missing filling his days with the job. I have dipped in and out of this series over the years and have had no difficulty in catching up. So while In a House of Lies would possibly be enjoyed all the more if you’re reading all of the novels in sequence, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble picking things up if you’re less familiar with Rebus’ story.
Rebus is, of course, retired these days and, for me, this has made the books slightly harder to read in recent years. They hark back to the past. We see the same characters over and over again and they are reminders of Rebus’ past career. They won’t let him go and neither will he leave them alone. Rebus is a cop who likes to know his enemy. There is a good side to this – we’re given such a thorough immersion in Rebus’ world and in the criminal underworld of Edinburgh – but I do wonder how long Rebus’ retirement investigating can go on for, especially now that he’s unwell. Ian Rankin writes brilliantly as always – but I can’t help thinking we’ve been here before. Much as I love Rebus, I think it could be time for him to be allowed to enjoy his retirement in peace.
The good news is that Siobhan Clarke has such a strong role in the latest novel. She’s central to much that goes on and acts independently of Rebus when it suits her. She has a new boss, Sutherland, and I rather liked him. I like the direction that these two are heading in. If Rebus ever is able to put his feet up then I think that Clarke and Sutherland would be worthy successors.
The stories in A House of Lies are very good and they’re intricately plotted. There is so much going on here as we see the perpetrators and victims of crime in all their guises. This is complex plotting and Ian Rankin is such a master at it.
The tension between old-fashioned policing and new restraints and techniques is such an interesting theme of these later novels. Both worlds view the other with suspicion and more than a little sense of competition, especially now that the policing of these older cases is under scrutiny. Rebus bridges these worlds surprisingly well. He represents something to police and criminals alike. He is a legend and the shadow he casts is long.
Rather Be the Devil