………….He waits. That’s what he does…………..and I’ll tell you what……………tick followed tock, followed tick, followed tock, followed tick…………ah yes good things come to those who wait – and it’s not just Arthur Guinness who knows that! Though this, my favourite of his ads, epitomises waiting for good things!
I know it too! There are three things in my life that, for me, are always well worth waiting on.
It’s worth waiting for the two stages of pouring a pint of Guinness – watching that head grow and settle – lovely!
It’s worth waiting for my partner to get ready when we go out – she always emerges late but she’s always absolutely beautiful and I feel wonderful to think she’ll be going out with me!
And it’s worth waiting for an Ian Rankin novel – they are always good, sometimes great, and occasionally, like this one, truly special!
To all intents and purposes, Standing In Another Man’s Grave is the comeback of ex-DI John Rebus. Now I’ve missed him since Ian Rankin “retired” Rebus. But it wasn’t until he emerged as a character in this book, on the very first page of it, that I realised just how much I’d missed him!
He’d made sure he wasn’t standing too near the open grave. Closed ranks of the other mourners between him and it. …….Rain wasn’t quite falling yet, but it had a scheduled appointment. The cemetery was fairly new, sited on the south-eastern outskirts of the city. He had skipped the church service, just as he would skip the drinks and sandwiches after. He was studying the backs of heads: hunched shoulders, twitches, sneezes and throat-clearings. There were people here he knew, but probably not many………..Words were being uttered but he couldn’t catch all of them. There was no mention of the cancer. Jimmy Wallace had been ‘cruelly taken’, leaving a widow and three children, plus five grandkids. Those kids would be down the front somewhere, mostly old enough to know what was going on. Their grandmother had given voice to a single piercing wail and was being comforted.
Christ, he needed a cigarette.
I simply wallowed and luxuriated in this first paragraph, and from there to the end, Ian Rankin didn’t let me down for a second!
The story sees Rebus re-engaged by Lothian and Border Police in what’s really a cold case unit. At the same time, the disappearance of a young woman, Annette McKie, in Fife, prompts another distraught mother, Nina Hazlitt, to contact the police yet again about her suspicions that this is not a one-off disappearance and is in fact part of a series, which happen along the A9 road, and which began many years before with her own daughter. CID don’t take much notice of her theory for the current case of Annette McKie – but when she tries to contact an officer she knows within the cold case unit, she discovers he is no longer there – and instead she gets, you guessed it….. Rebus! And there are two things that have always characterised Rebus, his nose for a case and his willingness to take on a seemingly lost cause and have a tilt at what others think are Don Quixote-type windmills! It’s not long before Rebus has wormed his way out of cold case unit and into the McKie investigation team, thanks partly to his sidekick of old, Siobhan and thanks partly to the sheer willingness of Rebus to stick his neck out.
I’ll go no further for fear of spoiling it for anyone who might decide to read it (and you should, you really, really, really should!). But it is a great book, one of the best Ian Rankin books in my humble opinion! The characters of Rebus and Siobhan are as strong and vibrant and doggedly real as they ever were – but if anything there’s an additional spice to their relationship now that there is more of a blurred boundary between boss and subordinate! (It’s kind of like in Winnie the Pooh, when Pooh’s surrounded by water, and he decides to try and sail on a honey jar, which he names ‘The Floating Bear’ – AA Milne writes about how for a while “Pooh and The Floating Bear were uncertain as to which of them was supposed to be on top” – well the Siobhan/Rebus relationship is exactly the same – though obviously minus the flood and the honey jar!).
The writing is as good as ever, the pace is great from beginning to end though it never feels rushed and the plot has just enough twists to make it mesmerising but never ridiculous. The previous characters of Malcolm Fox and his “Complaints” team are also there as is the sinister menace that is the gangland hard man Ger Cafferty. In the hands of someone less skilled this could end up feeling like a story with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in – but in Ian Rankin’s hands it’s a carefully balanced set of ingredients, blended together perfectly into an absolutely cracking book. I loved it!
Some comebacks aren’t really that welcome – like “Steps – The Reunion” – I mean why would they bother? It’s not as if anybody would have missed them – surely not!
Some comebacks are just plain silly – like “The Doors” without Jim Morrison. Talk about missing the point!
Some comebacks are welcome and long overdue – like the return of Paul Buchanan from The Blue Nile!
But some comebacks are the stuff of dreams and a cause for celebration – perhaps my most sought after comeback is the return of Eric Cantona to Manchester United – but if I can’t have my idea of heavenly perfection in ‘The Return Of Cantona’, then the byline on the cover of Standing In Another Man’s Grave is the next best thing, for it reads
“REBUS IS BACK!”
And as Shrek says to Donkey – “That’ll do for me Donkey! That’ll do!”