This 2003 release is the fourteenth novel in the Inspector Rebus series. The book begins with Detective Rebus in the hospital, his hands wrapped in bandages. While Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke speculates the cause of the injuries, the author leads us to two cases that Rebus, quite literally , involves himself in.
An ex-army soldier named Herdman walks into a schoolroom and shoots two of the students, injures another before killing himself. At the same time, Shiobhan’s stalker, Martin Fairstone, seems to have been murdered just moments before a drunk Rebus was seen visiting his residence.
To add to the mayhem, one of the victims of the shooting, Derek Renshaw, is the son of Rebus’s cousin Allan Renshaw, making the whole act even more obsessive for the detective, where he himself begins to see no difference between himself and Herdman.
Of all the books in the series that I have read (including the short series) this plot is indeed the most riveting. The setting seems very lifelike yet random in a very realistic way. Ian Rankin successfully manages to bring every character to life, giving the readers an opportunity to empathize with every one of them. There are times when I could easily feel the relentless exhaustion the characters felt trying to unearth evidence, trying to find a motive behind Herdman’s acts.
The plot leads to a series of various scenes, from drugs to diamonds, music and politics and airplanes (sort of reminds me of a classic Bollywood blockbuster).
In my opinion, the only drawback of the novel is that it is way too long. Rankin doesn’t necessarily provide a justified ending to a novel that took him at least quite a while to set. Furthermore, the biggest answers of the novels were answered thanks to some general blood spatter analysis and crime scene reconstruction, which is presented only in about the last sixty pages or so. There are also some parts that the novel could have done without, those that did not entirely contribute to the plot.
A superb attempt and a definite page turner. The plot is definitely worth the time spent!
– Shaun D’souza
(I study forensics, play beats with my fingers and sometimes take a nap.)