Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: Standing in Another Man's Grave

Summary: For the last decade, Nina Hazlitt has been ready to hear the worst about her daughter's disappearance. But with no sightings, no body, and no suspect, the police investigation ground to a halt long ago, and Nina's pleas to the cold case department have led her nowhere.

Until she meets the newest member of the team: former Detective John Rebus.

Rebus has never shied away from lost causes - one of the many ways he managed to antagonize his bosses when he was on the force. Now he's back as a retired civilian, reviewing abandoned files. Necessary work, but it's not exactly scratching the itch he feels to be in the heart of the action.

Two more women have gone missing from the same road where Sally Hazlitt was last seen. Unlike his skeptical colleagues, Rebus can sense a connection - but pursuing it leads him into the crosshairs of adversaries both old and new.

Rebus may have missed the thrill of the hunt, but he's up against a powerful enemy who's got even less to lose.

On the twentieth anniversary of Ian Rankin's first American publication comes a novel bursting with the vitality and suspense that made its author one of crime fiction's most dazzling stars. STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE is the triumphant return of John Rebus, and a riveting story of sin, redemption, and revenge. -- Reagan Arthur

Last week, I decided it was high-time to read STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE by Ian Rankin. Since I co-host the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge with Kathy/Bermudaonion, I probably should have read this one when it first came out, but I figure "better late than never." The thing is, this novel was so good -- one of the best mysteries that I've read in some time; and I could just kick myself for letting it sit on my bookshelf for so long.

A few years ago, I read my first Ian Rankin novel DOORS OPEN -- you can read my review here. I liked it well enough, but I heard that some of Rankin's fans were disappointed in this story. At the time, I wasn't entirely sure that I understood this, but after reading STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE, I totally get it. This novel is the latest in the Detective Inspector Rebus series and it's outstanding. Now, I want to go back and read 19 stories in the series because I absolutely loved everything about this novel!

STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE takes place when a retired Rebus is back at work helping the police department. This time, he's working with cold cases, a traditionally difficult assignment since there are few case closures given the time that has passed since the crime. When a grief stricken mother meets with Rebus, she explains the events surrounding her daughter who has been missing for the last decade. She also suggests that there might be a connection between her daughter and a recent disappearance that occurred near the same location where her daughter went missing. Rebus is definitely interested in helping her and senses that there are more to these crimes than first meets the eye.

I am almost giddy with how much I enjoyed STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE. This book encompasses everything I've come to expect from a quality literary crime novel. Rebus is an extremely well-developed character that I found to be fascinating, and the crimes, as well as their resolutions, were complicated, but not so much so that the reader couldn't follow some of the clues. And truly, I can't rave enough about Mr. Rankin's writing. He is a fantastic storyteller who does a terrific job with his character development, setting, prose, dialogue, and more.

I think what I enjoyed about this novel the most was the character of Rebus. I can see why the Detective Inspector Rebus series has been so successful (and long-running) because I was blown away by this character. In many ways, he reminded me of Harry Bosch (from Michael Connelly's novels), another one of my favorite crime protagonists, because he walked a fine line between good and bad. Not that I thought Rebus was "bad" in any way, but it was obvious he had a history with crossing his superiors in the police force. In addition, he wasn't exactly unethical, but he did blur the edges when it came to his crime-solving methods. He did what he had to do to get the job done. Despite all of this (or perhaps because of it), I adored him!

However, it was also the personal aspects of Rebus' character that I found intriguing... and this is where I wished I had read some of the earlier novels. There is no doubt that STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE works extremely well as a stand-alone novel, but I sure wish I knew more about Rebus' past especially as it pertained to a shady character named Cafferty, his old partner Siobvan Clarke, and the head of internal affairs Malcolm Fox. I have a feeling that there is a lot of history between Rebus and these characters, and I'm interested enough to go back and read some of the past novels.

I was also extremely impressed with the set-up of the crimes and the connections between them. I appreciated how the crime was initially introduced to the reader and how Rebus started to track down clues to determine if there were any connections between the other missing persons' cases. I enjoyed "following" Rebus all over Scotland as he drove around in his beat-up car (which I took to be a symbol of Rebus himself!) and started putting the pieces together. And as far as the ending of this story goes, it was quite the surprise for me -- not necessarily in who the murderer was, but in how how Rebus dealt with him!

Overall, I loved STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE and I definitely intend to go back and read more about Rebus. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

Wow! I knew you were enjoying this aw you were reading it but I didn't realize just how much! This sounds outstanding!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Well hot damn! I read the very first Rankin/Rebus mystery a couple of years ago and really liked it, and figured I would slowly work my way through the series but...then I didn't. Because I am lazy and have a short attention span I guess. I am SO pleased to hear that Rankin has still got it, 19 books later.

Beth Hoffman said...

My goodness ... I have to say that you've totally hooked me!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I too am happy to hear Rebus has come back to life, so to speak! I'll have to look for this one!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great review. I have a new interest in this series and am adding the first in series to my wishlist.