When authors bring their series characters back after a period of time, it doesn’t always work. Many times it feels like a grab for a paycheck or former glory while the hero feels somehow out of place and time. None of that occurs in Standing In Another Man’s Grave, however, where we get the return of Ian Rankin’s surly, Scottish Inspector Rebus in true form.
In fact Rebus has only been technically retired. Like his LA counterpart, Harry Bosch, he has been doing civilian work on the cold case unit. When a woman walks in with a tale about her daughter who went missing over a decade ago, Rebus hears the woman out. It seems that at least two other people disappeared on the same road. When he asks the woman who the last detective was she brought the information to, he learns that it’s his former partner, Clarke.
Rebus ends up working the case with Clarke in his old squad room, feeling the energy again. Since they’ve raised the retirement age, he considers reapplying. A major stumbling block in front of this is Malcolm Fox, the internal affairs detective and hero in Rankin’s last two books, who has Rebus in his cross hairs. When he first meets with Rebus he says, “I’ve gone through you’re file…actually it’s more like a whole shelf.”
As always Rankin makes the procedural elements snap. It’s believable that previous police officers would overlook some of the evidence that catches Rebus’ eye now. As a reader, you follow his deductions, both enlightening and false, which makes for some great interactions as he questions suspects. He uses the current police methods, especially with social media, not only to inform the reader but to make Rebus feel out of place. When wondering if he should come back he says, “My network is those streets.”
Of course as in any Rebus novel, it’s Rebus that makes it work. Still drinking and smoking non-stop, his attitude fits Rankin’s prose style like a glove and his banter with Clarke and practically anybody else is engaging, sharp, and quotable, with a curmudgeonly tone to it. While he takes the case out of a sense of duty, you also feel it’s because investigation is the only thing he was made to do (as well as to piss some people off.)
When Rebus questions someone he’s had a run in with before, the criminal says, “You’re the same… A little older and fatter.” Rebus responds, “I can’t argue with that.”
Neither would we or would we want to.