Ian Rankin's ninth book about Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh police is so full of story that it seems about to explode into shapeless anarchy at any moment. What keeps it from doing so is Rankin's strong heart and even stronger writing skills. When a Bosnian prostitute refuses to testify against a crime boss who has threatened her family, he says this about the cops trying to pressure her: "Silence in the room. They were all looking at her. Four men, men with jobs, family ties, men with lives of their own. In the scheme of things, they seldom realised how well off they were. And now they realised something else: how helpless they were."
Rebus is trying to help the young woman--renamed Candice by the young, slick, brutal thug Tommy Telford, who is into everything from drugs and prostitution to aiding a Japanese business syndicate in acquiring a local golf course--because she's about the same age and physical aspect as his own daughter, Sammy. He's also conducting the investigation of a suspected Nazi war criminal, an old man who spends his time tending graves in Warriston cemetery. "A cemetery should have been about death, but Warriston didn't feel that way to Rebus. Much of it resembled a rambling park into which some statuary had been dropped," Rankin writes with the icy clarity of cold water over stone.
Add to this Rebus's involvement with an imprisoned crime boss in a plan to bring Telford down; his continuing battle with drink; the strong possibility that people high up in the British government don't want the old Nazi exposed; danger to Sammy and her journalist lover because of her father's work; and a somewhat strained metaphor of Edinburgh as a new Babylon and you have an admittedly large pot of stew. But Rankin's high art keeps it all bubbling and rich with flavor. Others in the Rebus series include his 1997 Edgar Award-nominated Black and Blue, as well as Hide and Seek, Knots and Crosses, Let It Bleed, Mortal Causes, Strip Jack, and Tooth and Nail. --Dick Adler