Standing in Another Man's Grave
Ian Rankin
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Buy *Standing in Another Man's Grave (Detective Inspector Rebus)* by Ian Rankinonline

Standing in Another Man's Grave (Detective Inspector Rebus)
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books
400 pages
January 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Let the haunting picture on the cover serve as fair warning. In the tradition of Britain’s very best police procedurals, Standing in Another Man's Gravee is a story of missing girls. The novel is a complex tale with a darkly sinister mood. Retired Inspector John Rebus, who now works in a civilian capacity for Lothian and Borders Police, must acknowledge a series of cold cases in a world of “different ranks and different cops."

Joining the work of the Serious Crimes Unit, Rebus investigates long-dead murders, victims who have been forgotten by the world at large. Committed, headstrong and always relentless, Rebus sets on a path of no return when he gets a plea from Nina Hazlitt about her daughter, Sally, who vanished somewhere off the A9 highway about a decade ago. Rebus is shrewd enough to dig deeper and to recognize that Sally may indeed have been silenced for nothing more than getting on a bus to Inverness.

Rebus’s problem is connecting the dots in a web of murder and intrigue that includes other victims. Nina is positive she’s found a thread connecting her daughter’s disappearance to that of Brigid Young, who also vanished off the A9. As with most other cold cases, there is no evidence and no bodies have ever turned up; officially, there’s been no crime. Over the years, Nina has become just another mother whose reasoning has disappeared along with her only child.

At home in Grayfield Square, Rebus plunges into the case with gusto, feeling a small tremor of anticipation as Sally gradually becomes a real person to him instead of just a case number. Meanwhile, his ex-colleague Siobhan Clarke must deal with a department under siege as the Crown office sets up a new specialist Cold Case Unit. Old nemesis DI Malcolm Fox, who heads Ethics and Standards, is convinced that John Rebus is superfluous as he tries to scoop up the detective’s workload and make redundant his contributions to the Serious Crime Unit. When the mother of one of the other victims puts up a ten thousand-pound reward, Rebus once again battles public perception with the nuts and bolts of the case.

Thanks to the exquisite torture at the hands of an evil serial killer, Rebus embarks on a road trip with a fold-out map of Scotland, the route of the A9 highlighted in thick red marker. A chain-smoker and a thinker, Rebus drives through some of the most beautiful scenery of moorland and forest, where logging tracks lead to the middle of nowhere and landscapes are more alien than anything else he has ever seen. Filling his beloved Saab with petrol, he hits the road north to Perth, then onto Pitlochry and its roadworks, convinced that the clues to the case lie somewhere in this bleak and beautiful environment of isolation and stillness.

Just as we sink our teeth into Rebus’s travels and a macabre cat-and-mouse dance over the truth about girls’ fate, Rankin expertly juxtaposes the lines of investigation, channeling the internal politics of Clarke and her colleagues who are left to handle the Edinburgh aspects of the case. From Fox’s warnings to Clarke that Rebus’s mere proximity might damage her chances of further promotion, to a grieving mother who probably plays better with the media when there isn’t somebody waiting at home, each piece of the puzzle contributes to the sinister mood and the disturbingly suburban existence of the perpetrator.

We learn the fate of the missing girls as the case unfolds in a series of strange omissions, untrustworthy characters and Rebus’s drunken, whiskey-swilling perseverance. The reader is left with a haunting sense of ambiguity in a landscape where an unspeakable killer, once let loose, seems almost impossible to contain.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2013

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