A Song for the Dark Times


Ian Rankin

‘The face was turned away from him, the body twisted and still. Rebus knew a corpse when he saw one – and knew a likely crime scene, too.’

Rankin’s John Rebus stories are always fun to read, and this one is no exception. Of course, Rebus is now officially retired, but he can’t stop being a detective, often much to the annoyance of his former colleagues. However, A Song for the Dark Times sees him taking on a case that is personal. His daughter Samantha’s partner, Keith, is missing, then found dead, and she is a prime suspect.

Rebus is suffering COPD from many years abusing his body by smoking and drinking and has to move to a ground floor flat. However, after receiving a midnight phone call from his daughter Samantha, he leaves Inspector Siobhan Clarke in charge of his new house and his dog (!) and travels to Naver, the village in the very north of Scotland where Sam has made her home. It is Rebus who discovers Keith’s body near a former POW camp near the village. Now he must use all his investigative skills to exonerate Sam for the crime.

‘[Samantha] froze, eventually turning to face him. “Who the fuck am I talking to right now? I really need to know it’s my dad standing there and not just another cop who’s pulled me in for questioning.” ‘

Keith Grant was a member of an historical society researching the history of the camp. A few of the former German prisoners remained in the district at the end of WW2, married and have descendants. Rebus wonders whether Keith has discovered something about the place and the people that he shouldn’t. Also in the frame are a leader of a nearby commune, Jess Hawkins, whom Sam has been visiting, and Lord Strathy, a peer who has a home in the district.

‘Cafferty squatted next to him….”I sweat when I get excited. And to tell you the truth, I’d almost forgotten how the anticipation of GBH gets me excited.” He placed one hand around Burnett’s throat and started to squeeze….. “Got your attention yet, Cockless?” ‘

Complicating the case is its apparent connection with the one Clarke and colleague Malcolm Fox are working on in Edinburgh – the murder of the playboy son of a wealthy Saudi. One of the victim’s friends is Isabella Meiklejohn, Lord Strathy’s daughter. Of course, few Rebus novels would be complete without the detective’s old nemesis Big Ger Cafferty making an appearnce and, indeed, he does so here, up to his usual shading dealings.

Both murders are eventually solved, but only after two complex investigations involving drugs, money, seedy nightclubs, old weapons, a few red herrings and an attempt to compromise Malcolm Fox’s boss, Assistant Chief Constable Jenni Lyon.

Definitely one for fans of Ian Rankin and the TV drama series.


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