Small time crook Martin Fairstone dies in a fire which may have been started deliberately. Inspector John Rebus was seen leaving Fairstone's home shortly before the fire, and the next day is in hospital, his hands bandaged. With circumstantial evidence against him, Rebus must try to avoid suspension for long enough to find the real killer. At the same time, he helps his colleague Inspector Bobby Hogan to investigate the murder of two students and the wounding of another at a local school, the killer apparently turning the gun on himself. What drove ex-SAS officer Lee Herdman to commit an apparently motiveless crime?
This report prepared by Stephen Coombs
Little, Brown, Jan 2004, 22.95, 406 pp.
His superior DCI Gill Templer thinks he did the crime. His partner Siobhan Clarke is certain he did the crime. The evidence is circumstantial, but DI John Rebus had a motive as the victim Martin Fairstone was stalking and harassing Siobhan. John's severely burned fingers and hands that he claims came from scalding water, could have easily come from the fire that engulfed Martin.
When DI Bobby Hogan needs help on the investigation of the murders of two teens in South Queensferry, John persuades Siobhan to chauffer him there. One victim is the son of a judge while the other is a second cousin to Rebus. The third dead person at the scene is the killer, former SAS soldier Lee Herdman. The only survivor is the wounded son of a Scottish MP who takes advantage of the tragedy by spouting anti-gun propaganda to the media. As the SAS interferes with the case, other seemingly peripheral matters to include a new stalker of Siobhan complicates this strange homicide investigation in which motive fails to surface.
Though interesting, this Rebus is not quite on the par of excellence of most of Ian Rankin's police procedural tales. The handicapped John on drugs to ease his pained hands shows little impact except some physical problems like driving as he gets around too easily with this level of burn. Still Rebus remains one of the best and his efforts to prove he did not commit arson and murder while trying to look beyond the obvious in what appears to be an open and shut case, makes for two fine inquiries that will satisfy the author's vast readership.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner