"Dead Souls," is tenth, and by no means least, in the detective Chief Inspector John Rebus series by the outstanding author Ian Rankin, currently the best-selling author of mysteries in the United Kingdom. It can, like most of his work, be described as a police procedural, within the tartan noir school, and it is set in Edinburgh, in contrast to most Scots mystery writers at work now. The east coast Edinburgh is more or less his home town; in comparison to the west coast Glasgow, it's a more beautiful, smaller city, the capital of the country, where you might expect the crime to be white collar, rather than blue, and bloody. But Rebus always seems to find enough to keep busy. And what's tartan noir when it's at home, you ask? A bloodthirsty, bloody-minded business, to be sure, more violent than the average British mystery, but, thankfully, leavened a bit with that dark Scots humor. Written (duh!) by Scots. I consider the book at hand, as I've said, to be one of the strongest of the Rebus series. The plot is complex, and keeps moving forward. It opens with Rebus in a funk: his friend and colleague Jack Morton has died; and his daughter is in a wheelchair, as she was the victim of a hit-run apparently meant for Rebus. The detective is then assigned to look after Cary Oakes, a particularly nasty serial killer who's just been deported back to Edinburgh after having served time in the U.S. In addition, Rebus has begun a personal crusade against Darren Rough, a pedophile assigned by Social Services to live in a council estate with too many children. The suicide of a cop with whom he was friendly is rather mysterious, and may have broader ramifications. And Rebus, as Rankin, is from Fife: a high school sweetheart's son has gone missing, and he has agreed to help her search for the young man. The last subplot is evidently taken from Death is Not the End: an Inspector Rebus Novella (Inspector Rebus Mysteries), a Rebus novella Rankin apparently wrote at about the same time, and decided to fold in here: it seems to me that doing so has resulted in an odd plot mistake. But the novel, as a whole, deals with sensitive material and is deeply felt. Rankin is a highly talented writer with a great grip of the English language, Scottish subdivision. His previous novel Black And Blue won England's prestigious Gold Dagger Award, and was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel. He has a keen grasp of police work, the ability to keep several strong subplots going at one time, that sharp Scots humor, and the toughest tartan noir outlook around. He is also a meticulous observer of his city's weather, geography, ambiance, and social systems. His writing about Arthur's Seat, a rocky outcropping in the middle of Edinburgh, is more lyrical than any mystery writer ought to be able to produce. And his writing about his actual hometown, Fife, which is located slightly north of the city, and is best known for its one-time coal mines, one-time linoleum factory, and as the birthplace of the very pessimistic, even among famously dreary economists, Adam Smith, is sharp, humorous, and informative, to boot. (Fife is also the birthplace of the current British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and of another famous tartan noir author, Val McDermid.) Highly recommended, but bear in mind, it's tough stuff.