Tomorrow's Books


Ian Rankin

     At a bleak Scottish baronial hall, half a dozen hard-bitten detectives are gathered – ready, you might think, to interrogate the parlourmaid and unmask the laird’s psychopathic son.  But this is the age of DI Rebus rather than Hercule Poirot, and the hall has become a police college, to which the six have been sent not for their Cluedo skills but for counselling.
     Rebus himself has put his future in jeopardy by throwing a mug of tea at a senior officer; the others, for a variety of reasons, are also in danger of dismissal.  The book’s title refers both to their last chance to save their careers, and to an exercise they are set – the investigation of a forgotten, never-solved homicide.
     Rebus has been suspended from another murder case, but feels too involved to give up on it, and so the two mysteries unravel side by side.  One concerns a high-society art dealer and the other a small-time criminal, but you do not have to be a maverick Edinburgh sleuth with a nagging sense of honour to deduce that they will turn out to be connected.
     Just how is another matter.  Ian Rankin is a master of the multi-layered plot, and his narrative contains more twists and blind alleyways than an EU directive on cheese-making.  Cleverest of all is the idea that at least one of the Resurrection Men has been planted by the authorities to spy on the others and get to the bottom of their misdemeanours.
    Few thriller-writers are better at exploring the politics of policework.  Rebus inhabits a world where rivalry between colleagues and departments is endemic, and bent coppers are common currency. At one chilling moment, he realises that he would rather trust a known gangster than some of his fellow officers.
    The only thing one can really fault is Rankin’s taste in music:  Resurrection Men is stuffed with references to Seventies heavy-rockers and second-division Scottish bands.  If this is what they play on those tape machines in interview rooms, no wonder so many suspects sign false confessions.  Who needs a knuckleduster when you’ve got Led Zeppelin?