Millennium Post

The Old Fox

Discipline is for dodos. Real men kick up all the sand and sediment. Then study ‘what effect it had and what was uncovered in the process’. John Rebus has done this all his working life. With the result that the now retired Detective Inspector with the Edinburgh police department has made many enemies within the force and some friends among men he put away. He is a civilian employee now, working cold cases, and wanting to come back to the force as a full-time cop.

But few want this smoking, drinking, shit-talking, arrogant bastard back. Least of all Malcom Fox, another Rankin hero, who is cheese to Rebus’ chalk. Fox is a stickler for discipline. He looks at wrongdoings within the force, and keeps a keen eye on Rebus. ‘I know a cop gone bad when I see one. Rebus has spent so many years crossing the line he’s managed to rub it out altogether,’ he says. At a later chapter, a fellow cop tells Fox to let Rebus be, recounting all he did in his long years as a law enforcer. ‘I’m saying Rebus got results the old way, without seeming to earn them. He did that because he got close to some nasty people in a way you couldn’t...Rebus specialises in something a bit different— doesn’t necessarily make him the enemy.’ Fox isn’t convinced.

It’s a tricky terrain, to pit two heroes against each other. Rebus has appeared in eighteen Rankin books before this and Fox in two. Rankin fans have loved them both. Will Fox gather enough evidence against Rebus, prove that he breaks law to bring justice, before Rebus catches the criminal? The tension gives Standing in Another Man’s Grave a certain edge that keeps reader interest till the last page.

With this as sub-plot, Rankin lets Rebus out on a case that has remained unsolved for years. There have been a series of random disappearances, young women from towns near road A9 have gone missing at various points in time. No bodies have been found. No evidence gathered. When a mother approaches Rebus with the theory that her daughter’s disappearance is linked to the disappearance of all these other women and may be the same man is responsible, Rebus sets out to seek the truth, with protegee Siobhan Clarke in tow.

Does he have it in him to crack a case others have given up on? Can he be the man he once was. He is not a cop any more. The world has changed and with it the methods of crime detection. The TV crew is at a crime scene sometimes before the police is. And the internet is a bitch.

Rebus and Fox apart, the book is peppered with a host of interesting characters. One that stands out is ex-con Frank Hammell, one of the suspects in the case. ‘He was around five ten, with a look that mixed entrepreneur with scrapper. He wore a dark blue shirt, open at the neck, and his sleeves were rolled up. His thick salt-and-pepper hair was well groomed. Close up, Rebus could make out scarring leading from his top lip to his nose. One eyebrow had a permanent nick in it. Here was a man who tended not to back down when things got heated.’

And it takes a Rebus to tackle such men. This is crime writing at its rawest. Pick it up.
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