2017 marks the 30th anniversary of Ian Rankin’s John Rebus series, one of my favorite literary detectives. Like Harry Bosch, Kurt Wallender, and even my beloved Bill Hodges, Rebus is a cop who’s very life revolves around his work. His family and non-police friends have mostly disappeared. He drinks and smokes too much and his diet isn’t exemplary. He thinks outside the box, and is often criticized or even punished for going against the rules. But he gets results. And he does it all against the beautiful backdrop of Edinburgh, Scotland.
I first heard about Ian Rankin and John Rebus back in 2007, where twice in one week I came across references to the series: once from James Ellroy, who called Rankin “tartan noir”, and then from Anthony Bourdain, who went to a chip shop with Rankin when he was visiting Edinburgh for whatever show he was on at the time. Ellroy and Bourdain were good enough for me, and I took Knots & Crosses out of the library.
And now here we are, in 2017. Rather Be the Devil is the 27th installment in the series. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all 26 novels, and have only missed one book for short stories (which is sitting on my TBR shelf). John Rebus isn’t just a character to me, he’s like a grumpy uncle. I’m always excited to find out what’s going to happen next to John, Siobhan, Malcolm, and even Big Ger.
John’s getting older. He’s still officially retired, but he just can’t seem to stay away from police work. Constantly inserting himself into whatever cases Siobhan and Malcolm are working on, Rebus still gets results, even if he sometimes had to break the rules (or even the law) to get them.
But this time, there was more to the story than Rebus solving a few crimes. This time, Rankin threw in a health scare for Rebus as well.
And I’m telling you right now, that’s not ok. Rebus has quit smoking, he drinks less, he eats better, he even has a dog to walk. He knows he has to make changes in his life, and he’s working on it. And its all very real. He sits in his favorite bar and savors a half-pint of IPA now instead of downing pint after pint. He’s making some real progress.
But there’s a shadow on his lung and he’s coughing up blood. And I was petrified that whatever it was, it was going to stop Rebus for good. And I commiserated with Rebus while he dodged phone calls and messages from his doctor, instead keeping on with his investigations and research, believing that if he didn’t know the details, he could just ignore it for now. Sad to say, that’s pretty much what I would do in his shoes.
I’m hoping that Rankin isn’t through with Rebus yet, and that Rebus will have more crimes to solve soon. And I hope that Big Ger Cafferty, suddenly finding himself back on top of the Edinburgh crime scene, will be there to antagonize him for years to come.