In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin - book review

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin
In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

Retired Edinburgh detective John Rebus might now be in a ‘managed decline’ but fortunately for his army of fans, the wily ‘old school’ copper’s brain is still working at full-throttle.

In a House of Lies is the staggering twenty-second Rebus novel in a series that has confirmed Ian Rankin as not just a master storyteller, with his books adapted for radio, stage and screen, but as one of Britain’s most celebrated and popular crime writers.

Returning to the familiar beat with his roguish detective Rebus – his body now failing but his instincts still razor-sharp – Rankin delivers one of the year’s most powerful and entertaining whodunits as a cold case unearths more poison than a nest of vipers.

Blending first class police procedural with exquisitely crafted characterisation, Rankin takes us on a thrilling, fast-paced ride into a mystery that questions not just the reputation of the police but the integrity of Rebus himself.

John Rebus is not unwillingly called out of retirement again when a group of boys chance upon a rusted car in a deep gully in Poretoun Woods, not far from Edinburgh. Inside it are the skeletal remains of a man soon identified by the police as Stuart Bloom, a private investigator who went missing over a decade earlier.

A Major Incident Team is called to investigate but they need the help of Rebus’s old pal DI Siobhan Clarke who has the experience and vital local knowledge to help DCI Graham Sutherland, the man leading the cold case murder investigation.

What is troubling for both Bloom’s family, who have made dozens of complaints about the police handling of the case, and the new inquiry team is that his body was in an area that had supposedly been searched several times ten years ago.

Rebus recalls the case well – two powerful local men and a shady land deal – and is soon involved as the team begin combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions of a police cover-up and now every officer involved must be questioned.

Sutherland is convinced that everyone on the original case has something to hide and as Clarke and her team investigate the cold case murder, she soon learns a different side to her mentor John Rebus, a side he would prefer to keep in the past…

Rebus springs from the page in this gripping story of secrets, lies, corruption and its destructive consequences as the dinosaur detective shows the young bloods that old-fashioned policing skills can sometimes be far more effective at digging out the truth than the wizardry of the internet and technology.

Struggling with the effects of lung disease but still possessing that healthy disregard for authority which has won so many readers’ hearts over the years, Rebus is the ultimate maverick, his complex mind hard to fathom and his humour as black as a winter’s night in Edinburgh.

And in this new, baffling case, Rankin shines a light deep into Rebus’s soul as the tough, straightforwardly honest detective faces uncomfortable and searching questions about his own past and his own ethics.

The assorted layers of fascinating characters, a twisting, turning plot, and Rankin’s acid take on the brave new world of restructured policing make In a House of Lies the crime treat that we have come to expect from this top notch author.

(Orion, hardback, £20)