Book Review – SET IN DARKNESS (2000) by Ian Rankin

SET IN DARKNESS by IAN RANKIN (2000, Orion, Paperback, 466pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: Edinburgh is about to become the home of the first Scottish parliament in 300 years. As political passions run high, DI John Rebus is charged with liaison, thanks to the new parliament being resident in Queensbury House, bang in the middle of his patch. But Queensbury House has its own, dark past. Legend has it that a young man was roasted there on a spit by a madman. When the fireplace where the youth died is uncovered another more recent murder victim is found. Days later, in the gardens outside, there is another body and Rebus is under pressure to find instant answers. As the case proceeds, the Inspector finds himself face to face with one of Edinburgh’s most notorious criminals...

The eleventh book in Ian Rankin‘s Inspector Rebus series is an engrossing mystery, which weaves its various plot threads with masterly precision. Whilst the book starts slowly it allows time for Rankin to introduce his characters. The mysteries surrounding a politician’s murder, a 20-year old corpse and a serial rapist who targets singles clubs dovetail into a satisfying thriller in which Rebus’ unconventional methods continue to annoy his superiors. Then, we discover Rebus’ nemesis and Edinburgh’s Mr Big – Big Ger Cafferty – has been released from prison having been diagnosed with cancer. This sets up a tense head to head between Rebus and Cafferty which adds additional edge to the second half of the book. Rankin brings all these elements to the boil brilliantly and the finale is ironic, brutal and shocking and leaves the reader wanting more.

The Rebus series runs to 20 novels. I’ve read 13 of them and these are marked in bold in the list below. The early books lack the depth that Rankin would add to the series later by linking his plots to topical issues, but all are very readable:

  1. Knots and Crosses (1987) ∗∗∗
  2. Hide and Seek (1991) ∗∗∗
  3. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ∗∗∗
  4. Strip Jack (1992)
  5. The Black Book (1993) ∗∗∗
  6. Mortal Causes (1994) ∗∗∗
  7. Let it Bleed (1996)
  8. Black and Blue (1997)
  9. The Hanging Garden (1998) ∗∗∗∗
  10. Dead Souls (1999)
  11. Set in Darkness (2000) ∗∗∗∗
  12. The Falls (2001)
  13. Resurrection Men (2002) ∗∗∗∗
  14. A Question of Blood (2003)
  15. Fleshmarket Close (published in the USA as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004) ∗∗∗∗
  16. The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ∗∗∗∗½
  17. Exit Music (2007) ∗∗∗∗
  18. Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ∗∗∗½
  19. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ∗∗∗
  20. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)

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