Tuesday, December 11, 2018


IN A HOUSE OF LIES by Ian Rankin (Headline, 2018)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Everyone has something to hide. A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still - both for his family and the police - is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now - after a decade without answers - it's time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent. Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead - and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

Time flies: curmudgeonly Scottish copper John Rebus has now been policing Edinburgh, on the page and on the screen, for more than thirty years. He's been the most popular character in British fiction at times (topping annual bestseller charts), and still regularly hits the #1 spot on release. Through murders and misteps, retirements and career resurrections, Rebus has continued to fascinate. Now shelved by Police Scotland (again), emphysema has finally curbed his smoking and drinking.

But not his instincts for elbowing his way into and through a troubling case.

IN A HOUSE OF LIES, the twenty-second Rebus tale, opens with the discovery of remains in the trunk of a car deep in a forest outside of Edinburgh. While the family finally get some closure, the ID of the victim is bad for everyone else: Stuart Bloom was a gay private eye who vanished a decade ago while investigating powerful figures. His family always thought the Scottish cops had badly botched the investigation, focusing more on his lifestyle than his work, and now Bloom’s body has been found somewhere already searched. With handcuffs around its ankles. Possibly police issue.

Alarm bells are ringing throughout Police Scotland as various players look to shift blame and avoid the shit-storm about to come down on them. Was it carelessness, cover-up, or something even worse?

While this is a Rebus tale, in many ways it centres most on his long-time foil DI Siobhan Clarke, who is tasked with a new inquiry entwined with past mistakes, and her old pal Rebus, who was part of the original team. Clarke has a cloudy reputation after being targeted by professional standards and is being harassed by an unknown caller. Rebus injects himself into the fray on both fronts, and locks horns once again with the likes of local gangster Big Ger Cafferty as well as some dodgy cops.

Overall Rankin keeps the revs high in this story as a web of past and present acts threaten to overwhelm beloved characters. There's nuance, there's layers, and IN THE HOUSE OF LIES is another very fine tale in a very, very fine series. While Rebus might be in decline, physically, this latest instalment shows that the Rebus series is certainly not. Recommended.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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