I’ve finally gotten to the second novel in the Inspector Rebus series. I enjoyed the first one, Knots and Crosses, but I wasn’t in love, so I thought I should try one more just to see.
Since the last novel, Detective Rebus has been promoted to Inspector. It feels like he’s still getting used to the position and is maybe somewhat insecure, because he can act like a complete ass at times, and it seems unprompted and against his usual level nature. He’s also fully in classic detective mode now – living alone and single, his partner having recently left, and a borderline alcoholic. The amount of drunk driving he does in this is impressive, although obviously not recommended.
A junkie is found dead in an abandoned house, and it looked like a clear-cut overdose case, but something compels Rebus to investigate further. At least, it’s said to be a clear-cut case by other investigators, but the body was bruised, obviously posed, and surrounded by satanic symbols and candles. I know I’m not formally trained, but I was right there with Rebus on this one.
The nature of the crime, after some investigation, suggests that a lot more people could be hurt by the same killer, so Rebus takes on the case. His investigation leads him all over the city and the story is anything but predictable. In fact there’s really no way you’d be able to see the ending coming, and I can’t decide if I like that or not. On one hand, it’s great when you reach the climax and all the little pieces throughout the novel click together perfectly, but on the other hand it’s probably near-impossible to pull that off without it feeling contrived. The ending here was a bit abrupt and unsatisfying, though.
This novel began with an introduction from Ian Rankin apologizing for Rebus not being fully realized yet as a character. He says he’s too well-read in this and listens to jazz and classical, when he shouldn’t be interested in such things. This bothered me a bit, as a bookish detective is exactly what I want, and it seems a little condescending to assume that someone in a blue-collar position couldn’t be well-read. We’ll have to see how that works itself out in the later books. If he replaces his bookshelves with some golf clubs I’m finding a new detective series.
Overall I really enjoyed this, probably more than the first book actually. It had a tighter, much less ridiculous plot, and more interesting secondary characters. I enjoy his writing style, but I have to admit there were some incredibly cheesy lines in this. I wish I wrote down the quote, but at one point Rebus says something along the lines of “there was something fishy about this, and that fish was a herring. A red one.” And I was like, Ian no. Take that back.
I’ve picked up the third novel. I’m still unsure about the series, but I’m going to try at least one more. There’s something about the character of Rebus and the setting that just draws me in.