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A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin

John Rebus is just coming to terms with the changes in his life when he receives a phone call that has the potential to change everything. Contacted by his daughter, Sammy, who informs him that her husband has been missing for two days, his professional experience leads him to believe the worst. Knowing that his daughter will be the prime suspect, he heads off to the town where she lives, a town with secrets that even Rebus might think twice about uncovering. Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, DIs Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox are embroiled in a murder investigation, one that appears to have links to Rebus’s case…

Rebus is back and although retired from the police force, he is showing no desire to leave it behind. He may be suffering from COPD and having to adjust his lifestyle to deal with it, but Rebus is still keen to get involved in cases, often to the despair of his former colleagues. With his stack of unsolved case files, I think that Ian Rankin has the material to keep the former detective going for many years to come!

It’s been a while since we encountered Rebus’s daughter, Sammy, and although he doesn’t see her as often as he thinks he should, we get to see how much he cares about her when he drops everything to be at her side when her husband disappears. Although this part of the plot brought Rebus great heartache at times, I really enjoyed the humour he brought, especially when dealing with the local police. I liked the character of DS Creasey, and hope that he can, somehow, find himself involved in a later story line. I also found the historical aspect fascinating, discovering things about wartime Scotland that I was not aware of.

The second plot, the murder of a Saudi student, was equally as interesting with, seemingly, some connections to the investigation Rebus is undertaking. Since his retirement, we have seen more time being given to DIs Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox, but Rebus still lurks in the background, providing help (or a hindrance) along the way. Perhaps the biggest shock for me, though was the discovery that Big Ger Cafferty (still my favourite character) is now the owner of a gin bar, having decided that it was more profitable than whisky! What would the Cafferty of old think about that?!

Twenty-three Rebus books in and Ian Rankin is showing no sign of losing his touch – it is clear to see why this has been top of the bestseller charts. Long may Rebus reign!

With thanks to Orion and Net Galley for my copy.

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

When the body of a missing private investigator is discovered in the boot of a car, alarm bells begin ringing – the area had already been searched years before, when the man first went missing. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is now part of the team investigating the murder whilst also trying to discover what went wrong with the original case. Was there a cover up and just how involved was her mentor, retired detective John Rebus?

John Rebus is one of my favourite fictional characters and so news of a new Ian Rankin book always makes me happy. In a House of Lies has been sat on my Kindle for a while so I thought it was time to give it a read! I am glad that, although Rebus is now retired, he is still finding ways of worming his way into an investigation although, this time, he is slightly more involved than he probably wishes!

The plot is a good one with dodgy characters a plenty, each one having a motive for wanting the deceased out of the way. Like in any good Rebus book, we get an insight into the dark underbelly of Edinburgh, with the legendary ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty featuring prominently. Any scene with Rebus and Cafferty is always my favourite. Their relationship is still a complicated one – they share a grudging respect for each other but at the same time would stop at nothing to sell the other one down the river.

The other plot running throughout the book was probably my favourite. After receiving silent phonecalls, Siobhan Clarke makes the connection to a recent case where she put away Ellis Meikle, convicted of the unlawful killing of his girlfriend. Convinced of his nephew’s innocence, his uncle, Dallas, tries to intimidate Clarke, only to need her help in trying to find new evidence to help his case. This is where Rebus comes in and where we see that there is still life in the old dog yet. Speaking of dogs, I am glad to see that Brillo is still on the scene!

Another great Rebus book and I hope that it’s not too long before we get the next one!

An Evening with Ian Rankin

imageAs a fan of the Ian Rankin ‘Rebus’ novels for a very long time, I was incredibly excited to get the chance to be in the audience of ‘An Evening with Ian Rankin’ at Oh Me Oh My in Liverpool. The venue, the ornate former Bank of British West Africa, built in 1920, was the perfect place for an evening filled with insights, stories and laughter.

Rankin’s latest book, Rather be the Devil, sees the retired detective John Rebus, taking on the cold case of Maria Turquand, a socialite murdered in her hotel room in 1978. Meanwhile, the struggle for power in Edinburgh is alive and well with newcomer Darryl Christie taking on the old-school might of ‘Big’ Ger Cafferty. As a lot of the places that are used in Rankin’s books actually exist, it was interesting to hear how he contacted the hotel for permission to place the murder there – their response was ‘yes’ as it was a historical murder. Four weeks ago would have got an entirely different response however!

Always one for realism, Rankin felt that it was time that John’s penchant for cigarettes, alcohol and bad food came back to haunt him. Seeking advice from a doctor, a family friend, as to the sort of ailments Rebus could be suffering from, I was glad that several of the more grim conditions were discarded in favour of something more manageable! It will be interesting to see how he copes in subsequent books with his diagnosis although Ian admitted that he sometimes forgets about previous events saying that he almost forgot that Rebus had a dog when starting to write this book!

Throughout the evening, Ian was in conversation with Luca Veste, himself the author of superb books such as Then She was Gone  and Bloodstream. Both authors shared their similarities, discussing the settings of their books being in places not usually associated with the crime genre, with Veste talking about how he was turned down by numerous publishers due to the Liverpool setting. Rankin discussed how he, originally, used fictional places but how he now uses actual streets and buildings – a bonus for anyone participating in Rebus tours. He talked about the drawbacks, though, with the owner of the Oxford pub having to fit a foot rail by the bar as fans  were not happy to realise there wasn’t one, and also how a well-known coffee shop that he used in his current book has now become a restaurant!

Perhaps the funniest tale of the evening was his story about Peacock Johnson. Auctioning off the chance to appear as a character in the book A Question of Blood, the successful bidder was Johnson. On viewing his website, the author found a rather flamboyant, Hawaiian-shirted character – something seemed a bit suspicious! After a bit of detective work, Ian discovered that Peacock Johnson was none other than the alter-ego of the former bass player from Belle and Sebastian, Stuart David! Despite the subterfuge, Peacock Johnson did appear in A Question of Blood, along with his trusty sidekick, Evil Bob! Stuart David has since written a novel of his own featuring Peacock Johnson alongside another character with the familiar name of Ian Rankin!

In addition to his numerous anecdotes, we also discovered what had inspired him to become a crime writer. Revealing that he didn’t really start to read the crime genre until his early twenties, he discussed how television programmes such as Z Cars, Softly Softly and Shaft were amongst his favourites and talked about how the first name of Inspector Rebus is a nod to the private investigator  John Shaft!

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and if you ever get the chance to hear Ian Rankin speak, do go – you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

Rather be the Devil by Ian Rankin

imageForty years ago, Maria Turquand was found murdered in her hotel room on the same night that a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there. Despite the case being quite high profile at the time, no one was ever convicted of the crime. Now, with time on his hands, retired detective John Rebus is determined to solve the case. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, local gangster Darryl Christie has been the subject of a vicious attack. Is the notorious Big Ger Cafferty involved or is Christie’s rumoured involvement in a large-scale money laundering scheme to blame?

Now a couple of years into his retirement, and despite his health being a cause for concern, it soon becomes apparent that Rebus is not going to be spending his twilight years relaxing. Unable to take a complete break from the job that consumed his life, his interest in the Maria Turquand case puts him, once again, in contact with his old colleagues Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox. One of the more fascinating parts of these later books in the series (this is the 21st!) is the change in relationship between Rebus and Clarke. Once the superior officer, John must now rely upon his former subordinates in order to find out the information he needs.

Of course, one of the highlights for Rebus fans is the return of Gerald Cafferty. Like Rebus, he is seeing the younger generation take over his once thriving ‘business’ and, on the surface, he looks to be far removed from it. We have learned to never underestimate Big Ger, however, and the scenes between him and his nemesis, Rebus, are an absolute joy to read. There has always been a grudging respect between the two men and this is shown powerfully during the end scenes of the book when the life of one of the men looks to be in serious danger.

Ian Rankin has, again, produced a superb book which shows that, although Rebus may be advancing in years, there is still life in the old dog yet! After decades of reading this series, I dread the day Rankin decides that Rebus should hang up his boots for good.

With thanks to Net Galley and Orion Publishing Group for the ARC.

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