When an author is as successful as Rankin has been with his tough and idiomatic Scottish thrillers, a problem sets in after several books: How to keep the formula fresh?
Rankin has delivered a powerful series of books featuring his beleaguered DI John Rebus and while never less than gripping, a certain tiredness seemed to be setting in. Thankfully, this new novel is a resounding return to form, with a plot as enjoyably labyrinthine as any Rankin enthusiast could wish and pithy dialogue that fairly leaps off the page. Stalking the streets of Edinburgh on the trail of a poisoner, Rebus hits upon a freed paedophile and his subsequent outing of the man leaves him with very mixed feelings. But another problem develops for Rebus: A convicted murderer has him in his sights for some lethal games. And the tabloid press lionising of Rebus won't help him in this situation. As always, Rankin is perfectly ready to tackle contentious issues--precisely the thing that gives his books their powerful sense of veracity. And Rebus, no longer in danger of having a soap opera-like accumulation of personal problems, seems as fresh and well-observed a character as in those first exhilarating books. Rankin has caught his form again, with even more assurance. --Barry Forshaw