John Rebus, formerly a detective inspector with the police in Edinburgh, is retired. He’s fighting a nagging cough that erupts into serious hacking. He had to get a spot on his lung biopsied, but he’d rather not think about it. He has a romance going with Deborah Quant, the coroner, and under her influence he’s given up smoking (mostly) and is trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
He becomes intrigued with an old murder case, a cold case of a woman who married well and played around even more well. Proof of any suspect’s guilt was never found, but the list of suspects included a popular singer, his manager and the woman’s former lover, her husband, and perhaps half a dozen other people. Rebus has his former detective sergeant borrow the cold case file, and he eventually has a talk with the detective who was involved in the investigation and is now a doorman for nightclubs. Less than a day after the conversation, the man turns up dead.
The police are also investigating a missing, possibly dead, financial management guy, who appears to have had ties to organized crime, including the up-and-coming new boss of Edinburgh. The new boss gets attacked by someone with a baseball bat, and suspicion falls on the down-and-going crime boss Gerald Cafferty, Rebus’s old acquaintance, nemesis, and sometime cooperative informer.
Rebus suspects all of these cases, including the cold case, may be connected. But the powers that be in Police Scotland, bean counters, degree-holders, and ambitious professionals, are more aggravated with Rebus’s involvement than appreciative of his help. Didn’t this guy retire? And how does he keep getting past the front desk of police headquarters, and helping himself to tea?
Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin is a classic John Rebus story. Rebus may be older and occasionally ailing, but he’s lost none of his instincts for where a crime might have come from, and where it might be headed.
Rankin is an international Number 1 bestselling crime novelist and the author of 40 books, including John Rebus novels, short stories, non-fiction, and other works. He’s received an Edgard Award, a Gold Dagger Award for fiction, a Diamond Dagger Award for career excellence, and the Chandler-Fulbright Award (an international award funded by the estate of detective writer Raymond Chandler). He lives in Edinburgh.
Rather Be the Devil is John Rebus (and his author) in top form. Retired doesn’t mean dead, although Rebus keeps an eye out for his back. The story if a solid mix of a cold case, organized crime, and motives old and new.