by Ian Rankin
‘ “Information is power, Siobhan. Cafferty didn’t just bludgeon his way to the top.” ‘
A bunch of kids find an abandoned car at the bottom of a gully in the woods. Inside is the body of former private detective Stewart Bloom. He has been handcuffed round the ankles by what appear to be police-issue handcuffs. The real problem facing DI Siobhan Clarke is: Bloom disappeared twelve years ago and, while the state of the body is consistent with death at that time, the car has been in its present situation no more than three. So where was it?
‘As she approached the tenement, she saw there was something scawled on the door. Big fat siver letters against the dark-blue paint….. PIG SCUM LIVES HERE!!! PIG SCUM OUT!!!’
The land on which the car is found once belonged to Jaackie Ness, a producer of second-rate movies. It has recently been bought by tycoon Sir Adrian Brand, whom certain police sources consider to be “dodgy.” Clarke’s handling of the case is further complicated by her friendship with John Rebus, now retired from the police and suffering from COPD. Rebus, an officer on the original Bloom enquiry, insists on muzzling in on the case. Clarke is also on the radar of two officers in the anti-corruption branch, Steele and Edwards, whom both Clarke and Rebus suspect have discarded the “anti” and are on the take.
Further problems arise because Bloom’s family and friends believe investigation of his disappearance was botched by the police and want justice.
‘It was an ordinary kitchen knife, four-inch blade, not particularly sharp. The wound was deep; it would have taken force, taken a certain rage.’
An interesting subplot has Rebus investigating the jailing of a teenager, Ellis Meikle, for killing his girlfriend. He said he did it, but did he? And is there any connection between the two cases?
For fans of Rankin’s books, all his favourite characters are in In a House of Lies. Not only Clarke and Rebus have starring roles. Playing minor parts are DI Malcolm Fox, formerly of the “Complaints”, Big Ger Cafferty, boss of the Edinburgh underworld, whom Rebus has never managed to put away, and a few others always subordinate to the main storyline. This is the one thing in Ian Rankin’s fiction which occasionally irks. He introduces a large cast of characters a few of whom seem to have no role other than as padding for police procedure. Or is their presence intended to confuse and divert us from solving the case before his main protagonists?
Despite this minor criticism, In a House of Lies is great detective fiction, as good as anything the author has already given us.