The 13th and 14th novels in Rankin's twenty-year detective series bring Inspector Rebus closer to the end of his career. He is due to retire in the 17th book, Exit Music, which is released later this week. I've written about Rebus twice before so I'll try not to repeat myself. Suffice to say, the strengths and weaknesses in these novels are much the same as their predecessors.
In Resurrection Men, Rebus is investigating the murder of an art dealer. As in pretty much every book in the series he upsets his superiors and is taken off the case. This time, in a blow for realism, Rebus is sent back to training college. While there he finds himself investigating some corrupt cops.
A Question of Blood opens with Rebus in hospital with burned hands. Coincidentally, a thief who had been stalking Rebus's partner Siobhan Clarke has been found burned to death in a house. As rumours circulate about Rebus's involvement, he is called to private school where a gunman has killed two pupils and wounded one before turning the gun on himself. Rebus needs to find out why.
The frustrating thing about both books is that, in each, the two cases with which Rebus is involved turn out to be connected. In both books the coincidence stretches one's disbelief a little more than is comfortable.
Resurrection Men is the weaker of the two books. The coincidental tie-up of the two cases, together with the slightly overdone nastiness of the main villain, leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion.
In contrast, A Question of Blood is far more successful. Rankin pulls a genuine surprise at the end of the book and turns in a satisfyingly untidy resolution. It's one of the most enjoyable books in the series.
I'm aware that my posts about Rankin always focus on the negative points of the books. Of course, if they were that bad I wouldn't have read 14 of them. Rankin's characters are well-rounded, his writing consistently good and his plots pacey and tight.
The problem is that Rankin seems to be capable of better. The Rebus novels are excellent examples of the genre but I keep hoping to find a masterpiece tucked away in the series. With three books to go, there is still time.