Touring the site of Edinburgh’s new parliamentary building complex, dour DI John Rebus and fast-tracking DI Derek Linford are present when a moldy, desiccated skeleton comes tumbling out of a long-disused fireplace. At nearly the same time, Roddy Grieve, a lesser member of the town’s leading family standing for Scotland’s parliament, gets the back of his skull cracked in, while a down-and-outer living rough leaps to his death from a bridge. Rebus, never a team player, is assigned to sort out Grieve’s murder, but with Linford calling the shots. Meanwhile, Siobhan Clarke, newly off a rape-and-assault case, is to handle the leaper, who turns out to have £400,000 in the bank, while DS Wylie and DC Hood have the grunt work of identifying the skeleton. Ignoring Linford, niggling round the edges of the other two cases, Rebus senses the three tie together, and is soon hounding bad-guy builders and developers Barry Hutton and his strong-arm uncle, Bryce Callan, and meeting up again with Big Ger Cafferty (The Black Book, 1994), released from prison because of supposedly inoperable cancer. Irritating his superiors, taunting Linford, and unwisely accepting a ride with Big Ger, Rebus identifies a brother on the lam, an obsessed peeping Tom, and a scheme to control the Edinburgh landscape, but not before more death and his own violent beating.
Rankin, who won a Gold Dagger for Black and Blue (1997), adds another bracing Scotch sour to his fine Rebus series, concentrating this time on mordant family relationships, professional infighting, and the near-lethal mistakes of a good man.