The death of Maria Turquand had all the ingredients that would have appealed to the salacious public forty years ago; a beautiful woman, gangsters, drugs and rock stars. Not everyone from those glory days has moved on from Edinburgh and it pleases retired detective John Rebus that this is a cold case with connections to the present. Old crimes can still wound. Secrets from the past can forever alter those that are forever tasked with keeping them hidden.
It's quite possible that there will be a few moments during the reading of this novel where you will want to punch the air in pride. Our man Rebus still has the sharpest wit around and eases his way around tricky situations with the practiced air of one who expects little of others but demands much of himself. The acceptance of DI Siobhan Clarke and DI Malcolm Fox that Rebus will always a part of their investigative lives is well and truly established in RATHER BE THE DEVIL; it is both sweet and savvy of them both. The Rebus novels remain fiendishly clever and there's that continuing comfort also in knowing that John Rebus will not twilight out fighting the good fight alone. Having the serving Scotland police force continue to accept the input of an ex detective like Rebus, who always unashamedly operated within his own unique moral code, is supremely satisfying to his long time fans.
RATHER BE THE DEVIL is not quite new light through old windows but by novel's end you are quite refreshed and confident that this series will continue to go from strength to strength, even with the changing of the guard. The world of Rebus is now very insular – need a cop, use Malcolm and Siobhan, need a criminal lord, there’s always big Ger Cafferty etc – but the novels continue to be loaded to the hilt with vicious crimes and complicated agendas. RATHER BE THE DEVIL is a tighter work than a few of its series predecessors in that the series strengths are being employed all at once to produce an absorbing crime novel that would hold its own to a new reader, plus reaffirm the devotion of an existing fan of author Ian Rankin.
BOOK REVIEW - LOVE LIKE BLOOD, Mark Billingham
Whenever suspicion arises in a murder inquiry that it may be the result of an honour killing, the tasked investigators have a dual mission. One, to find out the identity of the murderers, and two, to determine who it was that arranged for the killings to be carried out. The practice of honour killings might still continue, but publicly the communities deny their occurrence.
It's always a joy to visit with Tom Thorne who makes firm decisions according to his own moral code and does not sweat the consequences of his actions. Thorne's personal life, now fourteen novels in, has settled into that of (mostly) peaceful cohabitation with his partner Helen and her son. There is less of Thorne's presence here as he shares the stage with colleague DI Tanner, and Tanner’s personal back story has greater relevance to the events of LOVE LIKE BLOOD. Thorne still shows us that he has firm personal convictions and plenty to say, but it's a more muted Thorne we encounter in this series entry.
LOVE LIKE BLOOD being the first crime novel that this reviewer has read on this type of murder, it has delivered quite an education. It beggars belief that this kind of reasoning behind the killing of family members is still considered acceptable by so many, and this is the frustration that the police convey in the novel. Billingham's author note at conclusion references a real life tragedy that is replicated in this novel, a fictional work. In different hands this novel could have been a much more bitter piece but the contemporary crime with a very old motive is delivered with Billingham's usual confidence and assurance. Whilst not being the most fast paced novel in the series, it is one of the more thoughtful and deliberate works.
BOOK REVIEW: RAGDOLL, DANIEL COLE
After attacking a child killer during his trial at court, Detective William Fawkes, known as Wolf, was publicly shamed and sent to spend time in a mental care facility. Now back on the job in Homicide, Wolf is painfully aware of a few things. First, that he was right all along. The killer he had attacked so savagely was eventually released, committing further atrocities before being recaptured. Second, that there’s a still a lot of people both in the force and out who think that Wolf has proven himself to be an unreliable loose cannon.
RAGDOLL is the debut novel of author Daniel Cole. With a second series entry due out in 2018, this is great news for readers of UK police procedurals. We're emotionally invested pretty soon into the read as RAGDOLL’s strongest inclusion is its large cast of diverse characters. Some decisions made by the police seem a bit questionable as they are marched through very quickly in order to keep momentum, but it's not that much of a pull away from the enjoyment of this read. You expect a bit of plot fluidity in a first novel and without great characters, you are unlikely to bother with book two.
Dark humour is sprinkled throughout RAGDOLL which is a welcome addition to temporarily lighten the mood away from the death and destruction. The characters don't seem to want to perform to our expectations of them and this does work to the advantage of injecting some realism into a novel that has a lot of bodies to deal with plus a fair whack of back story to roll out. Wolf is a complex character who moves through the novel by the seat of his pants, making this more of a personal journey to redemption than at first it might seem. It's fast, it's often funny, there's TV worthy gore, there is realistic emotional drama. RAGDOLL's cast is a welcome addition to the world of crime fiction and eventually we hope, to the small screen also.