Some detectives you meet stick with you. Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Spenser, Arkady Renko, Harry Hole, and John Marshall Tanner (of whom I am not the creator), come to mind. To this list, I must add John Rebus. I’d listened to one Rebus book some time ago, but I was lucky to find this, the initial Rebus book by author Ian Rankin, published in 1987. John Rebus is a police officer in Edinburgh, Scotland. Divorced, with a young daughter, a brother, a love of Scotch (the whiskey), some faith, and a past, Rebus is a round character. Typical of this genre, Rebus is neither a model of rectitude nor a model crime fighter. He lacks the suave confidence of Bogey’s Spade or Marlowe. Rebus, like many of his detective fiction contemporaries, is far too vulnerable.
As the book opens, someone is kidnapping girls. Rebus gets pulled into the investigation as he deals with his own life. His relationship with his brother, his ex, his daughter, an attractive fellow officer—you get the drift—all pull upon him. Rankin digs into the messiness of life in creating this character. Rankin’s prose is medium; descriptive without excessive detail, but not the sparse, hard-boiled prose of many of the outstanding Americans.
I’ve already mapped out what book in the series comes next. I’ll be visiting Rebus again, but then, some of his peers listed above still beckon.
P.S. I found this book in Jaipur in a bookshop. Read a paperback copy. Good luck to have found it!