Saints of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin

I received a free copy of this book to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 14 January 2014.

17899384What happens when the leads of two different mystery series meet in one novel? Ian Rankin, hailed as the master of Edinburgh mystery, shows us in Saints of the Shadow Bible. Rankin made his name with the Inspector John Rebus series about a Scottish detective who doesn’t always play by the rules. In his second series launch, Rankin created a detective who does nothing but play by the rules, Internal Affairs officer Malcolm Fox.

Rebus is an old school detective who couldn’t adapt to retirement. He took a demotion in order to get back on the force. He’s barely begun to annoy his new boss before Malcolm Fox is put on the trail of the cops that trained Rebus back in the early 1980s. His former boss, retired-DI Gilmour is implicated in fudging evidence to get an informant off of a murder charge. Meanwhile, Rebus and his partner are called to investigate the strange car accident of a businessman’s daughter. The facts don’t add up and Rebus can’t let it alone no matter how much the Traymors try to put him off.

I loved the way Rankin lets the cases unspool in this book. So many mysteries follow the same standard plot arcs that Saints of the Shadow Bible felt incredibly organic and realistic. Suspects let things slip. Old police records jog memories. Connections form slowly enough that you can play detective along with Rebus and Fox without feeling like the author is spoon-feeding you the mystery.

The best thing about this book was the interplay between Rebus and Fox. Rebus doesn’t care about chains of command or procedure. He asks questions and pesters people until he figures out what happened and who’s to blame. Fox is incredibly careful and correct when it comes to the rules. They not quite opposites, but you can’t help but ask who’s way of policing is best. Rankin also contrasts modern policing with rough 1980s justice. At one point, Rebus says that the BBC series Life on Mars might as well have been a documentary of his first years as a cop.

I wonder if Saints of the Shadow Bible is the first of a series about this duo.


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