Familiar Ground

Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin

Reading Challenge: A book set in Europe

Everyone should be a fan of at least one prolific author. It’s like having a nice long-standing friendship with someone who lives on the other side of the country. Maybe you don’t see them for a year or two (or more frequently if your favorite prolific author is Nora Roberts or Joyce Carol Oates), but when you do see them you know you’re going to have a nice time and you probably have a good idea what you’ll talk about. I have a few of those authors. Ian Rankin, and his Inspector Rebus, is one of them.

You really should try these books if you haven’t already. You can start on the later side if you want (I think the first one I read was Standing in Another Man’s Grave, #18) and you’ll probably figure out who these people are. Rather than running out of steam, Rankin gets better as he goes. I can’t always remember the plots after I finish these books, and there are a whole host of interchangeable (as far as I can tell) male characters in each book with Scottish names and I never can recall if they’ve turned up before.

The lead characters, though, are solid. There’s Rebus himself, an old-school and not-so-clean cop who frequently serves justice through whatever means are at his disposal, who drinks too much (natch), loves classic rock and holds his cards close to the vest at all times. There’s Big Ger Cafferty, Rebus’s long-time adversary and occasional ally, with both men facing their own mortality at this stage. There’s Siobhan Clarke, Rebus’s former protege, who might very well be turning into a younger, female version of Rebus. A more recent addition is Malcolm Fox, who starred in his own two books before moving over to the Rebus series, a former Complaints detective with a lot to prove, generally the most level-headed of the three but with his own impulsive moments (and when he gets impulsive, man, Fox is a “go big or go home” kind of guy).

With characters like these, who needs plot? But there’s plenty of it (“plot we’ve got/quite a lot” to quote Danny Kaye), and it involves murder, corruption, politics, a cover-up or two or three, an undercover cop possibly gone rogue, a couple of gangsters who might or might not be about to start a war, and Rebus and co. right in the middle of it. It’s entertaining and fast-moving, but won’t leave you feeling like you’ve just imbibed the literary equivalent of potato chips.

Recommended pairing: Belhaven Black, but really any Belhaven if you can get it.

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