Author: Ian Rankin
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Release Date: January 19, 2016
There are novelists.
There are crime novelists.
And then there is Ian Rankin.
"The girl screamed once, only the once." This is the first line of Rankin's first Rebus book, Knots & Crosses, published in Rankin's home country of Scotland in 1987. It is an edgy story about the abduction and murder of young girls. But, while the case itself is captivating, like all of the Rankin's books, it is - at least for this American - Scottish Inspector John Rebus's anachronistically lilting inner dialogue that makes you want to read on, and on...
Twenty books later comes Even Dogs in the Wild. Rebus is retired and driving himself crazy. He lives alone, smokes too much, drinks too much. Siobhan Clarke, long Rebus's subordinate, is now where he used to be. To cement the transformation of the character in the reader's mind, Rankin does not introduce Rebus until the third chapter. "That's me done," he tells the bartender after finishing his (perhaps) last drink. But once outside, smoking a cigarette his doctor has told him not to, he wants to go back inside the warm pub where there are no "bucket lists" or home repairs nagging at him. And then his cell phone rings. It's Siobhan asking him to help with a case. One involving a dead lawyer, and an attempt on the life of Rebus's old nemesis, Big Ger Cafferty. Working with Siobhan, though, means also working with Malcom Fox, formerly of Professional Standards, a division American readers know as Internal Affairs - cops who investigate other cops.
Even Dogs in the Wild is as pure a police procedural as you'll find. What sets it apart, and places the series well above those of so many other writers, is Rankin's supreme ability to capture and convey his characters' quirks, sins and motivations. Rebus, Clarke and Fox truly are living people, not just players bound to the typed page. That Rankin has contrived their natural evolvution over the decades is proof of how real they've become to him. That the stories capture the customs of Edinburgh for a readership who might not otherwise experience that city... well, that's a delightful bonus.
Prose 'n Cons strongly recommends Even Dogs in the Wild to all fans of mysteries and police procedurals. While the book can be thoroughly enjoyed as a stand-alone work - or even as your first Inspector Rebus book - we also recommend enjoying the previous entries in the series.