Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin
Friday, February 28, 2014 at 8:08AM
TChris in Ian Rankin, Recent Release, Thriller

Published by Little, Brown and Company on January 14, 2014

John Rebus is a traditional old school cop, the kind often admired by fans of police procedurals ... so admired, in fact, that Saints of the Shadow Bible is the nineteenth Rebus novel. Rebus drinks too much, he's no good at relationships and even less good at following orders or respecting the chain of command, but his instincts for crime are sound and he's a relentless investigator. When he manages to remain employed, he solves crimes. Rebus is employed in Saints of the Shadow Bible, although his role as Detective Sergeant is a step down from the Detective Inspector position he once held -- and his ability to retain his warrant card until the end of the novel is once again called into question.

Jessica Traynor's one-car accident hardly seems to merit the attention of DI Siobhan Clarke and DS Rebus, but Jessica's father is well-connected. A routine inspection of the scene raises doubt that Jessica was driving when her car left the road. Jessica doesn't want to talk about it but Rebus and Clarke soon focus their attention on her boyfriend, Forbes McCuskey, whose father happens to be Justice Minister. Complications ensue.

The novel's title comes from Rebus' days at Summerhall, where he started as a Detective Constable. All Summerhall detectives belonged to the Saints of the Shadow Bible. The Saints were less than saintly when it came to police work. One of their cases involved a murder suspect who beat the rap, perhaps because he was a police informant. Thirty years later, Scotland having loosened its protection against double jeopardy, the Solicitor General plans to revive the case, which means investigating the surviving Saints. Nick Fox, an interesting character who is charged with that task, initially meets with the usual derision earned by cops who police cops but eventually turns into a central (and quite likable) character. Fox appeared in a couple of his own novels before Ian Rankin added him to the cast of the previous Rebus novel.

All of this takes place against a political background in which characters line up as favoring Scotland's independence or opposing its separation from the UK. One of the prominent political players is a former Saint of the Shadow Bible and has a great deal to lose if the new investigation reveals anything untoward about his conduct. The political conflict adds an interesting dimension to the novel.

Rebus has a pleasantly gruff and abrasive personality that has attracted a loyal readership. Rankin walks a fine line between creating a mean-spirited (and thus unlikable) character and one who is merely acerbic and sarcastic (and thus funny). The ultimate mystery (who committed the 30-year-old murder?) requires the unraveling of several other mysteries. Rankin juggles a number of plot threads but never drops any of them. None of the resolutions are particularly surprising but they don't need to be. The story is satisfying and following Rebus through the course of an investigation is always an enjoyable stroll.


Article originally appeared on Tzer Island (
See website for complete article licensing information.