Edinburgh Inspector John Rebus's bad week -- his lover throws him out; his ex-dealing, ex-con brother, Mickey, turns up on his doorstep -- shows every promise of getting worse. His bosses are determined to pull off a dubious sting against moneylender Morris Gerald Cafferty (""Big Ger""); Rory Kintoul, the stabbing victim who dragged himself down a busy street to collapse in his cousin's butcher shop, won't say a word about who stuck him; word is that child-molester Andrew McPhail, deported from Canada, is back in town and at daggers' points with the stepfather of his alleged victim; and Rebus's mate Brian Holmes's reinvestigation of the five-year-old arson-murder at the Central Hotel gets derailed when he's brained and sent into a coma. (He'll be followed shortly by Mickey, kidnapped and left hanging by his feet from the Forth Rail Bridge.) The cryptic entries in Holmes's little black book -- ""Central fire. El was there! Poker game on 1st floor. R. Brothers involved (so maybe Mork too). Try finding"" -- are a bonanza, showing how the Central fire is at the dark heart of all the other cases. But Rebus will have a tough time running down the links when he's got troubles of his own: The gun he surreptitiously bought from an unsavory old acquaintance turns out to be the murder weapon in the Central shooting. Thick and zesty as a bottomless bowl of Scotch broth. Unspectacular Rebus (Strip Jack, p. 22, etc.) shines right down to the nasty surprise on the last page.