Written by Ian Rankin — A new Ian Rankin book is always something to celebrate, while one featuring John Rebus deserves extra fanfare. It’s been a while since we last shared a pint down the Oxford, so a catch-up is long overdue. Is retirement suiting the lugubrious former cop? Has he got an allotment yet? Some chance… because guess what? Rebus is back in the thick of it – and it’s as if he has never been away.
The rather odd title is inspired by a song of the same name by 1970s/80s Scottish new wave band The Associates, who even get a namecheck in the prologue – as well as a disparaging remark about the lead singer’s vocal prowess, it must be said. The wonders of modern technology meant that I stopped reading, found the song on Spotify and had a listen. It’s a haunting little number, with bleak lyrics that seemed pertinent… I’ll say no more.
Canines do play quite a part in this story too, which opens in those late 1970s days of car cassette players before moving swiftly to the present. There’s a little dog lost that adds some light relief to a decidedly dark main storyline, where dog eat dog is the order of the day.
A prominent Edinburgh peer has been killed in his home. A former Lord Advocate, Lord Minton had been out of the limelight for the past decade. So is his death a burglary gone wrong? DI Siobhan Clarke is on the case, and not too sure that things are that simple. Meanwhile, DI Malcolm Fox is floating through the system like a spare part, his former life in Professional Standards according him pariah status among the ranks. When he is begrudgingly allowed to sit in on a covert operation by officers who’ve just arrived from Glasgow, Malcolm expects to be given a corner seat and left in peace to play Angry Birds on his phone. But as Siobhan keeps telling him, he is a good copper. Are we about to see Fox live up to his wily surname?
So where’s Rebus in all this? At the Oxford, of course. But his drinking time is seriously curtailed when old enemy Big Ger Cafferty has his front window shot through. Cafferty is insisting he fell against the glass and broke it himself, but Clarke isn’t buying the story, and when Big Ger refuses to speak to anyone but Rebus, she gives her former boss a call. There’s a link here somewhere and she’s determined to find it, however unconventional the methods. Yes, Rebus certainly trained this one well.
Cue a civilian role for our hero in a book that has a grip like a well-oiled vice. This is the 20th Rebus novel, but Rankin has lost none of the skill and verve that has kept the series at the top of the best-seller charts. He has a keen ear for dialogue, a neat way of balancing light and shade and a killer instinct where sneaky plotting is concerned – all of which are sharply demonstrated in this book.
Don’t expect to get much sleep while you’re reading, because Even Dogs in the Wild is unputdownable and will keep you page-turning to the early hours. It’s one of those novels with a siren’s call, leaving you longing to get back to it when, sadly, real life gets in the way of reading time. I was up into the wee small hours finishing this book, then bereft that I had actually got to the end. That’s the mark of a real cracker.
Even Dogs in the Wild is released 5 November. You’ll find our review of the previous Rebus novel Saints of the Shadow Bible here, or for Scottish crime with a slightly different flavour, how about Denise Mina’s Blood Salt Water?
CFL Rating: 5 Stars