Book Review: Ian Rankin’s Saints of the Shadow Bible

Posted October 8, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

This book came from the library, and I will never give you less than an honest review, no matter its source. I do provide informational and purchase links to make it more convenient for you to access the book. I also receive a percentage of the sale if you use one of my links to buy it. And that's not enough money to be less than truthful *grin*.

Book Review: Ian Rankin’s Saints of the Shadow Bible

Saints of the Shadow Bible

by Ian Rankin

five-stars

Series: Inspector Malcolm Fox #4, Inspector Rebus #19

Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Exit Music, The Complaints, Impossible Dead, Standing in Another Man's Grave, A Good Hanging, Even Dogs in the Wild.

Genres: Detective Mystery, Mystery

This Hardcover has 389 pages and was published by Little Brown & Company on January 14, 2014. Discover more about it at Goodreads. You can also buy it at Amazon

Nineteenth in the Inspector Rebus mystery series, revolving around a rogue detective who prefers to do things his way, and fourth in the Inspector Malcolm Fox mystery series involving Fox, a cop who investigates other cops in Edinburgh.

In 2015, Saints of the Shadow Bible was nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel.

My Take

It’s a curious merger of Malcolm Fox from Complaints, Siobhan Clarke as the new superior, and John Rebus going his own way and learning new tricks. Yeah, who knew? It’s also a look at then and now, at cops doing business 30-some years back and how it’s done now with a side look at the question of Yes or No on the question of Scotland’s independence from England. And it looks like Rebus has a new lease on life, and thank god for that.

Rankin starts it off with the tension of a work shake-up, the introduction of one of Rebus’ enemies, and a suspicious car accident. …talk about the weakest link. Some of ’em do not have a criminal career in their futures. Rankin slides little jolts into the story, shaking us up, making us wonder how the cops are going to find this out.

I like how Rebus’ relationship with Siobhan has evolved. He’s easier with her. More playful. She’s become more authoritative, more confident in herself, even if she does question herself when she gets put in charge. It’s also a change in Rebus and Fox’s relationship, as they grow to appreciate the other’s point of view. It’s soft, gentle, and full of learning experiences with Fox offering up his own thoughts on Rebus’ future.

There’s a sense of comparing how Rebus became the cop he is from his association with the Saints, and I got to wondering how Siobhan’s time with Rebus has affected her. If Rankin meant to draw that parallel. Throughout the story, other cops keep mentioning that they’ve “heard” about Rebus, most of ’em respect him for his doggedness, the last of the breed. Siobhan’s got herself a rep as well.

Rebus has his fingers in so many pies in this one. I’m surprised he has time for a drink.

One of the lessons I took away from this is to not indulge in wrongdoing — it’s amazing how many people are getting caught and in trouble in this one. It always gets found out. It may take years, but it will be discovered. Those little things always accumulate. Things you figure aren’t so bad. It’s no big deal. And yet as it adds up, it can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

I am curious if all the coincidence that plays throughout Saints of the Shadow Bible is truly common in real policework.

I can understand the attraction of what the Saints got up to. Damned tempting. Only, where does it stop? It did crack me up when Rebus explained the blood and other stains as well as that chair, lol. Psychological manipulation doesn’t sound like a bad thing.

I dunno, Fox says that every situation is different, but that’s not the impression I’ve gotten about him. He’s always seemed pretty black-and-white when he’s investigating. Speaking of situations, it seems pretty tacky to me that the Saints keep trying to shove off the guilt and “sins” onto the one dead member of the squad.

A bit of history on what it was like to be a cop before mobile phones and social networking. Easier and harder. How it affected working with CIs, how the economy has changed things up.

If it’s not that big a deal for Siobhan to be seeing David, why does she get so upset when Fox talks to her about it. With all the leading on that Rankin does with the three friends, all the future possibilities he seems to be hinting at…it went rather flat. Although that bit at the end was a definite surprise. I do have to wonder about all these cops who keep stumbling about with no thought for the future. All the potential CIs they burn…*shakes head*…

Rankin isn’t clear on what got us started in this story, the accident, that is. We know it happened. Eventually we have an idea of who probably did something. But Rankin leaves it mostly to our imagination, dropping hints and ideas but never confirming much. It’s only Fox’s case that gets explained.

Lol, I can’t blame John for taking the floater to Ralph, especially since it ticks Page off so much. Page has never done anything for Rebus. Well, other than take him on, then give him grief.

That very last bit? Doesn’t Scotland have cadaver dogs?

It’s a hard line to walk as Rebus has his own secrets. And I still can’t decide if I approve or disapprove of Rebus’ actions.

The Story

It’s a braggart and a contradictory accident that sets off the civilian side of events while a publicity-hungry lawyer insists on dredging up old scandals amongst the police.

The Characters

Detective Sergeant (DS) John Rebus, yep, Rebus took a demotion to stay employed, when he lost his position with the Cold Case Unit when they closed it down. The cops are reorganizing, again. (The eight regional Scottish forces are being merged into Police Scotland with the Chief Constable of Strathclyde having the new top job. Fettes HQ will remain the headquarters.) Rhona is Rebus’ ex-wife.

Gayfield Square police station
DCI James Page likes the publicity and is more attuned to appearances than truth. You can guess that he’s not happy about Rebus, lol. DCs Christine Esson (she’s their tech person) and Ronnie Ogilvie are the rest of the squad. I don’t think anyone likes Page…

Torpichen police station
Detective Inspector (DI) Siobhan Clarke moves over here when that B&E turns into murder. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Nick Ralph is in charge there. Detective Constable (DC) Olivia Webster and Alan Drake are part of the team.

Wester Hailes police station
This is where Siobhan will head up her first Major Incident Team.

Professional Standards
DI Malcolm Fox is still with the Complaints, and he’s after more baddies. This will be his last case in Complaints before he’s transferred back into CID. Sergeant Tony Kaye has an exchange with Rebus.

Mitch Fox is Malcolm’s dad in a retirement home; Jude is his troubled sister. I do wonder if Malcolm’s been working off some guilt in the Complaints.

Saints of the Shadow Bible
The Saints were a small group of cops stationed at Summerhall, who had each others’ back. They ran it like their own kingdom, keeping evidence to play with, fixing reports. They’ve all retired, except Rebus, in some form or another. Eamonn “Porkbelly” Paterson still gets invites, and he’s dieted. George “Dod” Blantyre‘s had a stroke and his wife, Maggie, has been caring for him. Stefan Gilmour was the sacrificial lamb back then, and he’s done all right for himself. A millionaire with a reputation for footballers and film stars. And high up in the No party. Frazer Spence is dead. Alasdair Traquair is Gilmour’s very efficient lawyer.

Billy Saunders was a snitch back in the day, and then he got something on the Saints. He skated on the Douglas Merchant murder charge, the man he thought had been seeing his wife, Bettina. Taylor Craddock is a friend of Bettina’s. Reece Bairstow was the tow truck driver. Eddie Duke runs the scrap yard; Boris is the dog. John McGlynn is a business friend of Gilmour’s. Patrick is one of the petrol station attendants. Jack Redpath did a runner a couple years ago after a charge of dangerous driving.

Elinor Macari is the Solicitor General of Scotland who’s got a hard-on for trying Billy Saunders. David Galvin, a fiscal lawyer, meets Siobhan at a French-style restaurant, Bia Bistrot.

Professors Donner and Norman Cuttle were the pathologists who did that autopsy on Slippery Phil Kennedy. I’m not liking Cuttle too much. Professor Gates came on after them. Today’s pathologist is Professor Deborah Grant who picked up from Professor Curt. I think Rebus is taking her out on a date. Professor Thomas is a visiting forensic anthropologist.

Jessica Traynor was in a car accident, one with suspicious possibilities. Her father, Owen Traynor, has a reputation for letting his anger get away from him, but you can tell he loves his daughter. Alice Bell is Jessica’s roommate and a fellow college student with naughty and stupid secrets. Forbes McCuskey is a fellow art student and Jessica’s boyfriend. He’s got his fingers in a few pies his father, Patrick McCuskey, the Justice Minister, wouldn’t approve. The Minister is one of the Yes path and married to an American lawyer, Bethany. Bryan Hall is the cop who answered the call for Jessica’s accident.

Laura Smith is today’s crime scene reporter at the Scotsman. She’s got a nice tip for Siobhan. The retired Albert Stout was a reporter for the Scotsman, and he hated cops.

Darryl Christie is the young, up-and-coming criminal of today who runs pubs and more. He makes the Gimlet his HQ where Deano is one of the bouncers. Lavinia is a daytime bartender; Colin and Johnny are nightshift. Rebus put away Kenny Magrath, the man who killed Christie’s sister, Annette McKie. Rory Bell is an enforcer who’s branched out into protection. Now he’s looking into drugs.

Peter Meikle has a secret, one to which Rebus wants answers. Dorothy Meikle was his wife. Laurie Martin was an ex-Falklands-era-soldier suffering from PTSD.

Yes and No parties are those who are for Scottish independence or against.

The Cover and Title

The cover has an empurpled sky for a background with a close-up of an old-fashioned street lamp and a Gothic tower in the background. Broad bands of red project into the picture as background for the author’s name and title.

The title refers to a small group of corrupt cops some 30 years ago, the Saints of the Shadow Bible, a bible not quite the word of God and thus could be ignored when “necessary”.


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