I’ll start this review by saying I am a massive fan of Ian Rankin, especially his John Rebus series of books. So basically, he could write up Rebus’ shopping list, and I’d probably give it a 5 Star review. Just so you know.
There have been at least 20 books about John Rebus and his adventures in the Edinburgh police department. And this was the first one that wasn’t really about John Rebus that much. Yes, he was in it, and yes, he played a major role, but he wasn’t the primary character, and it had a bit of a different feel to it. Almost like Ian Rankin was feeling out what it would be like to have a John Rebus book without John Rebus in it.
The bulk of this story was about the re-opening of an unsolved case from 2006. New evidence has been uncovered, bringing in a new investigative team that includes Siobhan Clarke, and also involves the original team, which of course, involved Rebus. The missing persons case from 12 years prior is now officially a murder case.
All of the old suspects are brought in, but the original team is brought in too. Was there maybe someone on the team who was working for the other side? Were there mistakes made (on purpose) in order to keep the mystery unsolved?
This is a Rebus story, so rest assured, all of our old friends like Malcolm Fox and Big Ger Cafferty are going to have parts to play here. As does the lovely city of Edinburgh.
But I was more interested in the secondary story. It seems that Siobhan has been getting threatening phone calls regarding a case that was closed several months prior — a young man murdered his girlfriend and was sent to prison. But was it really that simple? Siobhan is convinced to take another look at the case, but she has her hands full with this new murder investigation…so she hands it off to her old mentor.
And here, I’m going to have to include some spoilers. If you are a Rebus fan, but haven’t read this one yet, tread carefully.
This turns out to be a rather upsetting story about the dangers of social media and what its doing to teenagers today, especially girls. The murder was the result of incessant internet (I think Instagram, but can’t be sure) bullying. And Rebus had a really hard time wrapping his head around it.
Rebus is no friend to technology. He likes to do things the old fashioned way. But he understands that he needs to make an effort in order to exist in the modern world. But he doesn’t have to like it.
It saddened him that so much these days happened online, with every keyboard warrior suddenly a ‘commentator’ or ‘pundit’ or ‘news-gatherer’. There was a lack of quality control. Anyone and everyone felt they had something to say and they weren’t about to hold back. The public probably reckoned they were better informed than ever. They were, but not always by the truth.
Adding in impressionable young minds just made things worse.
He was thinking about families and the lies they told each other. From the outside, it was hard to know what was happening behind their walls and curtained windows. Even once you’d crossed the threshold, there’d be secrets unshared. In an age of the internet and mobile phones, kids and their parents lived ever more separate lives, sharing confidences but also hiding bits of their true selves behind masks. It had been hard enough in the past to read people, but these days you had to push your way through so much that was fake and misleading.
This secondary plot was depressing, especially as I am the mother of a teenage girl who is ALWAYS on her phone. The bullying and the depression and the staged lives were really tough to read about, and yet, I wish there had been more to it. I wish this had been the primary case that Rebus and Siobhan had worked on.
As always, it was great to get back into the little world of Rebus and his friends. And next time, I’d like to know more about Big Ger’s pig farm that he keeps threatening people with. I can’t even imagine what goes on up there.