Once again up on charges, DI John Rebus defies suspension and scalded hands to work two difficult cases.
Rebus’s first problem is how to prove to his partner, Siobhan Clarke, and their boss, DCI Gill Templer, that despite severely burned fingers, he didn’t set Martin Fairstone ablaze to avenge his stalking and brutalizing of Siobhan. Trying to circumvent Templer’s wrath and needing Siobhan to drive until his hands heal, Rebus responds with her to DI Bobby Hogan’s need for help with a pair of 17-year-old corpses in South Queensferry, one the son of a judge, the other the son of Rebus’s cousin Allan. Also lying dead is the shooter, ex-SAS soldier Lee Herdman. Recovering at home with his dad, a publicity-hungry anti-gun Scottish MP, is the tragedy’s sole survivor: wounded student James Bell. Why did Herdman target the youngsters, then kill himself? Rebus is stymied by two hostile SAS investigators who always seem to be in his way, perhaps covering up evidence, perhaps planting some. And too many people are distracted by nubile Teri Cotter’s Web site, which shows her bedroom antics 24/7. Meanwhile, Siobhan has acquired a second stalker, and Rebus seems fixated on the antics of lowlife Peacock Johnson and his gofer, Evil Bob.
A notch below quintessential Rankin (Resurrection Man, Feb. 2003, etc.) with a wrap-up that doesn’t quite ring true and a Rebus too dependent on painkillers and single-malt. But Siobhan—now there’s a lassie to admire.