Sometimes crime affects you directly; in A Question of Blood
Inspector John Rebus is caught up in two cases that are closer to home than he would like. He is under investigation for the burning alive of a minor psychopath who threatened his attractive young sergeant Siobhan Clarke.
As always in Rankin's novels, Rebus's bad attitude to his superiors comes back to bite him--even though doctors testify that damage to his hands is a scalding from trying drunkenly to get into an over-hot bath, it is regarded as circumstantial evidence of his possible guilt. The high-school shooting looks at first like another ex-SAS crazy going wild--and here Rebus's own past as an SAS washout comes to haunt him--and the constant meddling of army investigators screams cover-up. In fact, though, this is one of those occasions on which Rebus' slightly paranoid preparedness to see connections everywhere pays off and he manages to solve both crimes and a lot of other unsuspected pieces of mayhem besides.
Along the way, the book offers Rankin's usual intense commentary on embattled masculinity and what it means to be a Scot, and this excellent sequence's usual portrayal of an Edinburgh where modernity rubs up against time-worn slums and ancient privilege. --Roz Kaveney
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From Publishers Weekly
The 14th novel to feature the always compelling (and, as his name suggests, perpetually puzzling) John Rebus begins with what seems to be a uniquely American crime: a madman enters a school and starts shooting, killing two students and wounding a third before turning the gun on himself. But we're in Rankin country-a perpetually damp and morally bankrupt Edinburgh-with Rebus and Siobhan Clarke searching for the real story behind what seems an act of sheer madness. This immensely satisfying police procedural has plenty of forensic science, but Rebus knows that "none of it might make them any the wiser about the only question that mattered....The why." Why did Lee Herdman, a drop-out of the U.K. version of the Special Forces, go on a rampage? Why was James Bell, the son of a self-righteous Scottish M.P., merely wounded? And why are two Army investigators sniffing around the case? A subplot has Rebus himself under suspicion of murder: a minor criminal is found dead, burned in an apartment fire, and Rebus shows up with heavily bandaged hands the next morning. The detectives encounter every stratum of contemporary Scottish society, from angry teenage toughs and petty criminals to the privileged and the powerful. It's a complex narrative, perhaps too much so at times, but the plot is less important than Rebus himself, a brilliantly conceived hero who is all too aware of his own shortcomings. In an essentially amoral society, his moral compass is always pointed steadily towards the truth.
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