This was a significant book for me, not because of the plot but because it was the first book I finished using glasses. For 50+ years I have been blessed with good eyesight, now I’m feeling my age and have recently got my first pair of glasses.
The book is a familiar kind of police procedural novel. This is the fifth of 21 Inspector Rebus novels, I haven’t read any of the others but I did read The Complaints a Rankin novel about the cops who investigate other cops.
Inspector Rebus is a gritty Edinburgh detective, originally from Fife. He is sharing a flat with his ex con brother and some lentil eating students. Five years before our story starts, a seedy Edinburgh hotel burnt to the ground in suspicious circumstances, a charred body with a bullet in his head is found in the ruins. Rebus has the files around his desk, his superiors want him to drop the case and focus on more current cases. ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty is a high flying criminal, who Rebus is certain was involved in some way in the killing and he would love to bring to justice. Rebus follows his own rules and accepts the punishments that inevitably follow. Chasing the bad guys, Rebus runs into trouble with his superiors and is suspended from duty, when a gun he buys on the shy turns out to be the same one that was used in the Grand Hotel shooting.
The key to solving this mystery is the black book of the title that was in the possession of Brian Holmes, a police officer who met with an “accident” after leaving Rebus’s company at the Heart Break Cafe. Siobahn Clarke, a junior detective is driven, English and careful, most of what Rebus isn’t, but they make for a good team.
The novel rambles at times but it is not without it humour:
Willie tasted from the steaming vat. “I think I have put too much cream in the potage.”
“It’s the way Elvis would have wanted it.” commented Rebus.
My rating 4 out of 5