“A Song for the Dark Times” by Ian Rankin; Little Brown and Co. ($27)
John Rebus, the Edinburgh police officer appearing in a novel by Ian Rankin for the 24th time, is growing old, but his mental acuity and sleuthing skills are as keen as ever.
Retired from the force because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he can no longer climb the stairs of his spacious apartment in a walk-up “tenement,” and is being helped by his former colleague Siobhan Clarke to move into a smaller flat on the ground floor. Downsizing is hard for all of us — including Rebus’ small but feisty dog Brillo — and for the aging detective, his old case files are among the most difficult possessions to part with.
“A Song for the Dark Times” is actually two parallel stories. During his move, Rebus gets a call from his daughter, Samantha. Samantha has distanced herself from her father because of his having put police matters above family during her formative years. But now, Samantha’s husband, Keith, has disappeared. She and their daughter are alone and desperate, so Rebus takes his dilapidated jalopy up north, leaving Siobhan to care for his apartment and the dog.
When Rebus arrives, he receives a cool reception from his daughter, who remains ambiguous about their relationship. When Keith turns up murdered, Rebus meets an even colder treatment from the local detective, Robin Creasy, who not only resents unrequested assistance from the old city cop, but considers Samantha to be the prime suspect.
The second murder is Siobhan’s case, back in Edinburgh. Salman bin Mahmoud, a wealthy Saudi student (and playboy) who is also a fanatic James Bond fan, is found in a seedy part of the city.
The seemingly unrelated crimes are brought together by a beautiful though unpleasant young heiress. Coincidence and complications pile up. With this tale unfolding in Rankin’s colorful prose, we can hope that Rebus and his old Saab will return next year for another bout of Caledonian chicanery.