Detective Inspector John Rebus’ retirement party — which came near the end of Ian Rankin’s 19th and supposedly final Rebus book, 2007’s Exit Music — wasn’t much of a career capper. Before handing over his warrant card for good, the gruff Edinburgh cop hit the Oxford Bar with a few co-workers; he downed ”six pints, three shorts, and half a bottle of wine” and was relieved to hear there would be no speeches. See ya, Rebus. Rankin then wrote two worthy novels about an Internal Affairs cop named Malcolm Fox, but fans of literate detective fiction have never stopped pining for the curmudgeon.
Pour yourself a celebratory Highland Park, because Rebus is back. Standing in Another Man’s Grave finds the former sleuth once again working with the Lothian and Borders police, now as a no-authority civilian in the Serious Crime Review Unit (otherwise known as the cold-case squad). One day Rebus gets tipped off to a string of women who’ve disappeared near northern Scotland’s A9 highway. Is there a connection, or is it just a coincidence? And are they related to an active missing-persons case being investigated, naturally, by Rebus’ old partner Siobhan Clarke?
Rebus soon gets pulled back into the addictive drudgery of serious detective work, dragging his over-worked Saab around the Scottish Highlands (Pitlochry! Dornoch! The Kyle of Tongue!) while trying to solve a case when he has zero clout and limited access to the investigation. Further complicating matters is his uncomfortable semi-friendship with long-running nemesis Big Ger Cafferty, which raises the suspicions of none other than Malcolm Fox. Rebus is decidedly diminished here, befuddled by modern commonplaces like Twitter and barely tolerated by the force’s new guard, who treat him like an outsider. But while Rebus isn’t at his best, Rankin is, spinning yet another irresistibly dreary tale around his authority-phobic antihero. A-
”[Rebus] realized his hands were trembling. He pressed them together, as if that might help. His heart was pounding too. ‘Not yet,’ he said to his chest and the organs within. ‘Not just yet, eh?”’