Set In Darkness by stdepue


									“Set in Darkness” (2000) is 11th in the Detective Chief Inspector John Rebus series, by
the award-winning author Ian Rankin, O.B.E., currently the best-selling writer of
mysteries in the United Kingdom. And, mind you, it was published before the author was
40. “Set” 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, as he was born in nearby
Fife; in comparison to the west coast Glasgow, it's a more beautiful, smaller city, the
administrative 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. Now, just 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.

The novel at hand, “Set,” opens at an exciting moment. For the first time in nearly 300
years, Edinburgh is about to become the home of a Scottish Parliament. Detective
Inspector John Rebus is charged with liaison to the parliament’s building site, as it is
under construction in the middle of his patch at the St Leonard's cop shop. Queensberry
House will be home not only to Scotland’s new rulers-to-be; it is also the site of a legend
of a young man roasted on a spit in the kitchen by a madman son of the noble who owned
it. When the fireplace where the youth supposedly died is uncovered, however, another
more recent murder victim is revealed. This body is at least twenty years old, dating from
the last interior remodeling of the mansion, and is unidentifiable. Days later another
body is found in the grounds of the mansion. This time the victim is the well-born Roddy
Grieve, prospective Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP) and the powers that be are on
Rebus's back demanding instant answers. And then there’s yet another body; a homeless
man commits suicide shortly after discovery of the unidentifiable body, and, puzzlingly
enough, the police learn that the vagrant had 400,000 pounds in the bank.

Rebus catches the case of the murdered Grieve, and must navigate his way around the
man’s prickly family: his mother Alicia, a well-known artist, sister Lorna, formerly a
famous model; brother Cammo, already a political power in London. His cop’s instincts
shout at him that the three cases are interrelated. The detective also finds his old nemesis
involved, Morris Gerald Cafferty, ruler of the city’s underworld, unexpectedly benefiting
from an early release from Glasgow’s Barlinnie prison, back on his home turf. And the
cases seem to point to the city’s former crime lord, living in splendid self-imposed, non-
extraditable exile in Spain, Bryce Callen, and his nephew Barry Hutton. One thing is
clear: there will be lots of money to be made as Scotland approaches self-governing
status; and where there’s lots of money to be made, people often play rough. So Rebus
ends up working the three cases; his frequent assistant, Siobhan Clarke, has been working
another case, of a serial rapist, and that case too ends up thrown into the mix. And then
there’s a time when Rebus wonders if the classically beautiful, nearby Rosslyn Chapel,
made famous by Dan Brown’s DA VINCI CODE, isn’t somehow involved, as several of
the characters seem to be interested in it.

The title of the book “Set in Darkness,” can be found in a poem by Sarah Williams, “The
Old Astronomer to his Pupil:”
Though my soul may set in darkness
It will rise in perfect light,
I have loved the stars too fondly
To be fearful of the night.

Rankin delivers the complex, dark tales with his customary vivid grittiness, wit and
brevity. At one point he describes a couple of minor characters: “Big women they were,
addicted to Scotland’s pantry: cigarettes and lard. Training shoes, elasticated waistbands.
Matching YSL tops, probably knock-off if not fake.” He continues to give us brilliant,
high-energy writing on Edinburgh, its flora, fauna, geography, weather, and inhabitants,
and the adjoining ancient “Kingdom” of Fife, best-known now for its slumbering coal
mines, and its vanished linoleum factory. The author has been nominated for an Edgar
Award for BLACK AND BLUE, for which he won England’s prestigious Gold Dagger
Award. His novel DEAD SOULS was nominated for another Gold Dagger Award. He
won the Edgar in 2004 for RESURRECTION MEN. Ten of his novels have been
televised in series. He seems to be closing the Rebus series out now: you want to catch it
if you can.

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