Set in Darkness
Ian Rankin
465 pages
published in 2000

After reading The Falls I was in the mood for more Ian Rankin and this was the only other of his novels the local library had on offer. Coincidently, Set in Darkness is the previous book in the series.

With Scottish parliament coming into existence in 1999 and it being housed in Edinburgh, there's need for a police liasion team attached to it. Guess which hardbitten cynical DI is on the team, together with such career climbers like DI Derek Linford? Rebus is not very happy with it, as the job seems to mainly involve a lot of pointless excursions and meetings, including a trip to the future site of parliament, Queensberry house. Where a dessicated corpse promptly turns up when workmen rip out a wall and find an old blocked off fireplace.

Investigations get underway, but are hampered when a few days later a more recent corpse is found on the building site: that of prospective Member of Scottish Parliament, Roddy Grieve. Now things get interesting, as a third body emerges, when a local tramp kills himself by jumping off a bridge -and turns out to have quite a bit of money tucked away in his bank account. The solution for all these mysteries seems to lay in what happened the last time Scotland almost got a parliament rather then in more recent times.

Quite a lot of crime/detective series are frozen in time (e.g. Lawrence Block's "The Burglar who... series") where the years may advance but the setup stays the same; the characters neither growing nor changing. This is okay for light entertainment, but for more serious series it's not enough. If a series takes place over a certain number of years, I'd like to see the characters in them change somewhat, if only by acquiring the sort of backstory you get by living day to day. Even if people don't change dramatically, just being alive for a number of years will induce changes and it's nice to see them acknowledged, as they are here.

Happily, judging from the two Rebus novels I've read so far, the characters do live in the real world and do built up a history, a history which influences later books without getting to be the sort of continuity you get in superhero comics or soapoperas, where only the flashy stuff is remembered and not the day to day stuff. What I also like about both this novel and The Falls is that this isn't a one-man show; we spent quite some time with Rebus' coworkers as well.

As with The Falls, very much recommended.

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Webpage created 20-05-2003, last updated 08-07-2003
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