Book Review: Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

Posted April 7, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin
Genres: Detective, Mystery
on January 31, 2017
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Saints of the Shadow Bible, Knots and Crosses, Even Dogs in the Wild

Twenty-first in the Inspector Rebus detective mystery series and revolving around a supposedly retired Rebus in Edinburgh, Scotland.

My Take

That Rebus is twisting his way through Rather Be the Devil. Not a cop anymore, he still manages to worm his way in and through, dealing with the power and corruption of both police and criminals. Spilling and keeping secrets, taking the piss out of everyone, and going up against rival criminals.

There’s a detachment in this, partly due to the third-person point-of-view that mostly focuses on the externals of the various characters in their dialogue and actions. Not a lot on the internal thoughts.

There are lots of inconsistencies that I ignored, simply because I do like Rebus so much. I mean, really, how many cops would let Rebus get away with so much? But when it comes to shooting someone who is about to take your head off and then putting the person defending themselves in jail for it??? No. I don’t get that. Of course, I don’t get any justice system that holds you to blame for shooting someone who is breaking into your house. So what do I know…?

It is an interesting reminder of the different crime boss styles: the more modern and smooth Darryl Christie versus the thug mentality of Ger Cafferty and Joe Stark. And the even more thuggish Aleksander. Speaking of styles, it’s a hoist with your own petard situation for Fox when he discovers his sister’s perfidy and the soup it lands him in. For someone of such brutal honesty — who led the internal affairs department, no less, it must be mind-wrenching to find oneself on the “wrong” side.

Keeping up with that honesty bit, coppers never had to worry about Twitter and YouTube, and it’s reading stories like this that make you so aware of the need for writers to keep up-to-date with technology. Poirot never encountered Twitter!

Damn, it’s not fair. I want to know more about that comment Fox makes about Christie’s finances. And Malcolm needs to stop enabling his sister.

As usual, I enjoyed this, although the pacing was a bit slow and there were those inconsistencies.

The Story

As he settles into an uneasy retirement, Rebus has given up his favorite vices — but there’s just one habit he can’t shake: he can’t let go of an unsolved case. It’s the only pastime he has left, and up until now, it’s the only one that wasn’t threatening to kill him. But when Rebus starts reexamining the facts behind the long-ago murder of a glamorous woman at a luxurious hotel — on the same night a famous rock star and his entourage were also staying there — the past comes roaring back to life with a vengeance.

And as soon as Rebus starts asking questions about the long forgotten crime, a fresh body materializes, and his inquiries reunite him with his old pals — Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox — who are attempting to uncover the financial chicanery behind the savage beating of an upstart gangster, a crime that suggests the notorious old school crime boss Big Ger Cafferty has taken to retirement as poorly as Rebus himself.

The Characters

John Rebus used to be a detective inspector and has been diagnosed with COPD. It’s been seven days since he’s had a cigarette. Brillo is his dog. He’s dating Professor Deborah Quant, a pathologist for the Edinburgh police. Sammy is his married daughter with her own child.

Edinburgh, a.k.a., Division Six
Detective Inspector (DI) Siobhan Clarke had been Rebus’ partner back in the day. Based at Gayfield Square police station, she now works with Detective Constables (DCs) Christine Esson and Ronnie Ogilvie of the sparse mustache. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Page is their boss. Tess is a friend of Siobhan’s who works in the control room at Bilston Glen. Haj Atwal is the crime scene manager.

Garctosh is…
…the Scottish Crime Campus to which DI Malcolm Fox has been promoted from Professional Standards. The campus includes Specialist Crime; Forensic Science; the Procurator Fiscal’s office (the Depute who shows up is Shona MacBryershe rates the better biscuits); Organised Crime and Counter-Terrorism is led by Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Ben McManus; Criminal Investigation is led by ACC Jennifer Lyon, Fox’s boss; and, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)’s Sheila Graham will work with Fox on this case.

Seems harsh that Siobhan dumped Fox after he got his promotion.

Major Investigation Teams (MIT) are…
…from Garctosh. ACC Lyon has sent Detective Superintendent (DS) Alvin James to take over along with his team: the overflowing DS Sean Glancey, the whispering DS Wallace Sharpe, and DC Anne Briggs and DC Mark Oldfield who have their own private code.

Police Scotland seems to be similar to a national law enforcement agency in that it sends in specialized squads for high-profile inquiries. Alan McFarlane heads up Economic Crime Command at the National Crime Agency in London. Eddie Trantor had been in charge of SCRU back in the day. DI Robert “Rab” Chatham was the last cop who looked at the Turquand file. Retired, Chatham is a doorman (a.k.a., bouncer) working for Kenny Arnott, who runs a company supplying doormen to pubs and clubs as well as managing boxers at Kenny’s Gym. Donny Applecross is his current cage fighter. Anna is Kenny’s latest girlfriend. Liz Dolan is Chatham’s significant other.

Morris Gerald “Big Ger” Cafferty used to run Edinburgh. He and Rebus have a long, adversarial “friendship”. Crawfurd Leach is Big Ger’s solicitor.

Darryl Christie is the gangster who now runs Edinburgh, from bookmakers to bars to drugs to SLPs to ??? Gail McKie is his mother; Cal and Joseph are his younger brothers. Hugh Harold “Harry” Hodges is his driver and assistant who keeps an eye on the Devil’s Dram, a nightclub. Diamond Joe’s I and II and Klondyke Alley are betting shops. Daniel “Dandy” Reynolds and Roddy Cape are friends of the younger brothers.

Joe Stark is an old crime boss in Glasgow who is allied with Christie. His closest friends/associates include Walter Grieve and Len Parker. William Crawford “Craw” Shand is a stinky nutter with a record who likes to confess to crimes. Eddie Bates is a small time drug dealer. Alan Tranter is Bates’ solicitor.

Cold Case: October 1978
Maria Turquand, née Frazer, was strangled in her hotel bedroom at the Caley. John Turquand, a banker, had been her workaholic husband. His bank, Brough’s headed by Sir Magnus Brough, catered to old money. Peter Attwood, a playboy wheeler-dealer, had been Maria’s lover at the time. Now he’s married to Jessica.

Anthony and Francesca Brough were Sir Magnus’ grandchildren; their parents, Jimmy and Lisanne Bentley Brough, had died. Julian Greene had been Anthony’s best friend and dating Francesca until he drowned in Grand Cayman. Alison Warbody is now Francesca’s carer. Brough Investment Group and Brough Consulting are Anthony’s companies. Molly Sewell is Brough’s assistant. Aleksander Glushenko, a.k.a., Anton Nazarchuk, a Ukrainian, is with the Russian mafia and a client.

Bruce Collier and his band, Blacksmith, had been playing a gig at Usher Hall and staying at the Caley. Dougie Vaughan is a local musician who had been a friend of Collier’s and one of Maria’s ex-lovers. Vince Brady had been Bruce’s embezzling band manager.

Maxine Dromgoole is an author who wrote The Ends of Justice: Scotland’s Greatest Unsolved Crimes; she’s also Chatham’s lover. Laura Smith is a crime correspondent for the Scotsman. Barry is a punter. Denise is a barmaid. Wilbur Bennett was the reporter with the paper in the Grand Cayman at the time of the drowning. Joseph Beddoes owns a hardware store.

Mitch, Fox’s dad, died in Even Dogs in the Wild, 20. Jude is his ne’er-do-well sister.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a drizzly, misty day in front of a rich man’s house, a fence lined with shrubbery, stone pillars holding a pair of wrought iron gates, ajar, a cobblestone drive inviting you to slip inside. The author’s name and title are on block banners of a light cocoa; the author’s name in black with the title below it in white.

The title could be a sly reference to Big Ger, who’d Rather Be the Devil Rebus knows.

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6 responses to “Book Review: Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

    • It’s a twisty tale and shocking to see Rebus retired and giving up his smokes. It gives a sense of reality to this story as life goes on and Rebus is having health issues and difficulty in being outside the force. Doesn’t let it hold him back, though!

  1. First, OMG I love that cover! The gate is so gorgeous! Architecture is so fun to study and observe.

    I’d not heard of this author! I haven’t read a true crime fiction novel in a long time. There are so many characters in this book, wow. o_o I’m glad you enjoyed this one overall! Great review!

    Have a wonderful weekend. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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