Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin: A review

Throughout much of Ian Rankin's latest, I was very worried about my old friend, John Rebus. All those years of heavy drinking and smoking seem to finally be catching up with him, and he's suffering from a bad case of bronchitis and perhaps something even more ominous. 

Rebus is never one to stay down for long though. Even his creator discovered that several books back in this series when he tried to write Rebus off into the sunset in Exit Music. The man just won't go quietly and keep his nose out of things. He keeps creeping back. He's retired from the police at least twice now, but he can't seem to settle into the quiet life of an OAP (Old Age Pensioner). 

He still has his contacts in the Edinburgh police, particularly his long-time protege, DI Siobhan Clarke, who keeps him informed about what's happening. And whenever the police need a Cafferty whisperer, John's the one to call.

Yes, Rebus' nemesis and erstwhile drinking buddy Gerald Morris ("Big Ger") Cafferty, Edinburgh crime boss, is finding it just as hard as his buddy to "retire." He still maintains an interest in the city's crime scene, especially as it relates to his supposed successor, Darryl Christie. When Christie is attacked in his own driveway, the investigation inevitably turns to Cafferty and the call goes out for the Cafferty whisperer.

But even before that, Rebus has been keeping himself involved by looking into cold cases. One, in particular, intrigues him. It's the case of a wealthy socialite who was found dead in a luxurious Edinburgh hotel room back in the '70s. One reason he's intrigued is because of the case's connection to a local celebrity musician and his band. It seems that the socialite may have been having an affair with a member of the band. Anything to do with the music of the '70s is bound to grab the attention of Rebus, the music connoisseur.

Suddenly, with the new case related to Christie/Cafferty, Rebus has two parallel investigations to pursue, but at some point those parallels begin to converge. Is there really a connection between that long ago murder and today's Edinburgh crime scene? If there is one, you know John Rebus will find it.

It's such a pleasure to walk the streets of Edinburgh and settle down in the old Oxford Pub with Rebus, Clarke, and - oh, yes - Malcolm Fox, too. The three of them work together brilliantly as a team, the OAP and the two DIs. The plot hardly even matters; it's the interaction of those characters that keeps us turning the pages.

That's not to say that the plot is not well-constructed. It is just as tightly woven as all of Rankin's plots. It's really rather amazing that he has managed to keep up the quality of this series through, now, twenty-one entries. Generally, in such long-running series there is an inevitable fall-off of quality somewhere along the way, but in this, as in many other things, Rebus/Rankin is exceptional. Long may he continue.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars     


  1. I'm glad that this entry proved a successful one in the series. It sounds like you enjoyed it, as usual. :-)

    1. I usually enjoy my visits with Rebus and this one was right up there with the best of them.

  2. I once tried to read a Rebus mystery somewhere in the middle of the series. I was so confused, I decided I needed to go back and start at the beginning. Haven't done that yet. I am glad to know he is still going strong.

    1. This is a series where you would definitely want to start at the beginning. Each book builds on events from past entries.


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