The return of John Rebus as a senior citizen over the past three novels by Ian Rankin has been a joy for readers. The sensibility is easy, luxurious, smart, personal, emotional and compelling. The plots are twisty and feel real, but the pull is the people. Rebus, Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox are characters we want to be with. Where they go, we will follow, courtesy the prose skills of Ian Rankin.
As Even Dogs In The Wild, the latest novel, opens, Rebus is in full retirement. He is a citizen again, no more, and eminently no less. He’s not particularly happy about it, but he’s trying not to grouse, an obvious impossibility. When Clarke and Fox ask for his help in two different cases, we may think we know where this is all headed. Clarke is looking into the death of a government official and Fox, hated by his comrades for being far too good investigating cops in his stint in for The Complaints, is assigned to crap work on a surveillance detail. And Rebus gets a call from a former enemy and ally, “Big Ger” Cafferty, himself retired from his former place at the top of a crime syndicate. It will not be a happy time for any of them.
Readers, on the other hand will find the latest by Rankin, a gorgeous, immersive pleasure to read. Sentence by sentence, Even Dogs In The Wild is a true delight. His descriptions are powerful and evocative, whether he’s portraying people, places or peril. Plotting is delightful and surprising, but also poignant. Ultimately a novel about fathers and sons, Even Dogs in the Wild has a lot of resonance. Rankin has crafted a novel that both super-fun to read and quite hard to forget. It’s the sort of book you’ll go back and visit in memory, as if the reading itself were a crime-and-drama-filled vacation in Scotland, with friends who became family as events transpired.
For all the old-man, get-off-my-lawn attitude that Rebus brings into every scene, Even Dogs In The Wild find him to be a truly appealing character. He is by no means a man who would claim to have a superpower, or even be interested in one. Rebus is too stubborn for superpowers. He’s too human.
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