Dark Nights of the Scot Soul

As the 10th novel in Ian Rankin’s series about Inspector John Rebus, “Dead Souls” lights up the dark soul of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the land of run-down council housing where everyone from those poor to the very rich hunt for someone worse off to feed on, overseen by the tabloid press, which feast on everything it can find. It is a land exemplified by the deep-fried Mars bar: life-threatening but irrisitible in the same way that one slows down and drives by the accident.

“Dead Souls” picks up Rebus’ life in progress, starting with the death of a friend who launched himself from Salisbury Crag in the middle of the night. He was a detective with a promising future in the force and a happy family, and that’s enough to engage Rebus’ investigative talents.

From there trouble piles on and puts in the boot as well: a two-time murderer is released from jail in the United States and he decides to settle in Edinburgh, putting the police in a difficult position: leave him alone and accept the blame if he murders again, or watch him too closely and be accused of brutality. The murderous Cary Oakes is a villain worthy of Hannible Lecter, but without his taste for liver and fava beans. He’s smart, a good actor, manipulative and wholly without a conscious. Against him, the forces of law and order don’t stand much of a chance.

In Rankin’s hands, Rebus wanders through many dark nights of the soul, drinking and eating so badly as to excite the pornographic envy of Americans too addicted to the idea of healthy living. Although he joins the ranks of those the grim detectives have followed the bloody trail before him, Rebus stands out as a fully fleshed being, capable of recognizing his mistakes and hoping for redemption. “Dead Souls” is a complex story, but never gets bogged down in the telling, and those with a taste for exploring the dark side of crime will find that Rankin delivers.