It is 1 July 2005 and the G8 are to meet in Scotland with demonstrators from all over the world descending on Edinburgh, and in a few days hundreds of miles to the south the summer will be marked for ever in our memory.
“The trees around were strung with rags and remnants”
When the cloth on the trees contains evidence of two more murders of convicted sex offenders, Trevor Guest and Edward Isley, it is clear that a serial killer is on the loose. Detective Inspector John Rebus and DS Siobhan Clarke begin an investigation, in which they become involved with Cafferty, his business empire, and a website that targets sex offenders called BeastWatch.
When Rebus also begins to look into the apparent suicide of trade secretary Ben Webster MP, he is warned off the case by the arrogant David Steelforth of SO12, who is in charge of security at the G8. What was the relationship of Ben Webster with arms dealer Richard Pennen, whose company paid Webster’s hotel bill?
Siobhan’s hippy parents, straight out of Dharma and Greg, are attending the protests, but Siobhan’s mother is assaulted and ends up in hospital. Siobhan becomes personally involved in tracking down the assailant and of course Ger Cafferty is just the man to exploit such a situation.
Meanwhile Rebus uses both his relationship with journalist Mairie Henderson, and his general insubordination, to embarrass Richard Pennen, and his associates.
“We’re Lothian and Borders Police, Mr Dobbs. And I want to thank you for your frank answers to our questions.” Rebus stared over the seat towards the civil servant’s lap.
“You seem to be crushing all your lovely papers. Is that to save on a shredder?”
What is the interest of the mysterious and influential Councillor Gareth Tench in Cafferty’s criminal activities? And how is he able to come conveniently to Siobhan’s aid when she is threatened by local thugs?
Will the solid police work of Rebus and Clarke solve the triple murder, before any more of the “beasts” listed on the website are murdered?
This novel is both standard Rankin, full of sharp dialogue, and a typical multiple investigation crime fiction novel. We assume that perhaps the various investigations will spin together in a climax, but Rankin keeps us guessing till the end. Rebus is once again the insubordinate, hard drinking, chain smoking rogue, who is surrounded on all sides by unreliable cops and those on the make from all levels of society. Siobhan is the only person he can really trust, and even she is knocked off course when her mother is hurt.
Rankin can certainly create interesting characters, but sometimes his plots can feel strained as he strives to include the Cafferty-Rebus symbiotic relationship in each novel.
I did enjoy this book a lot more than the three other Rankin books I have read, maybe that was because I agreed with his demolition of the hypocrisy of both the demonstrators and the delegates at the G8, or maybe because it is just a better book.
This is a very convoluted and very complicated story with numerous minor characters, several red herrings, a few surprises and while it is probably 100 pages too long it is a real “page turner”. Drawing one of Siobhan’s “mind-maps” might assist the reader in following the actions and interactions of the protagonists.
As in most good crime fiction novels, and especially long running crime series, it is the characters that become more important than the plots.
I think I must have been converted, because I now want to know how John Rebus ends his career in Exit Music.