Book Review: Saints Of The Shadow Bible

David Gilchrist — 24 January 2014

Spending your time tickling a trout line from under a caravan awning somewhere in the great outdoors doesn’t always leave you time to read as much as you might like. It’s one of the reasons (that is, until now) that I’ve never read any of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels.

As a Rankin newcomer, my expectations were based on his amazing reputation as a crime novelist. So I put down the rod, sat under the awning with a nice pinot and jumped into my first Rankin, Saints of the Shadow Bible.

Rankin has found detective John Rebus a new job and hauled him out of retirement. Now, this is the point where the average grey nomad will be nodding sagaciously. They know that coming out of retirement can be a galling prospect. This is where Rebus finds he is a newly minted detective sergeant. As Rankin writes: “The question sliced Rebus like a scalpel.”

As it turns out, the loss of pay is the least of Rebus’ problems. A three-decade-old case is reopened but the trouble is Rebus’s old team is suspected of foul play. Inevitably, this pits the detective sergeant against his old nemesis, Malcolm Fox, who happens to lead the investigation.

In a wonderful piece of storytelling that’ll have your pinot go warm or your coffee cold, Rankin’s yarn flings the past into the present. We learn about the old team that once called themselves ‘the Saints’ and then there’s something called ‘the Shadow Bible.’ Along the way, one even starts to wonder if Rebus has anything to hide.

Rebus picks up multiple plots and weaves them together with the sort of majesty that his reputation had led me to hope he would. Saints of the Shadow Bible is ingenious, subtle and the sort of read that makes me wish I’d gotten around to Rankin earlier.

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin is out now on Orion. RRP is $32.99


YOUR SAY: When was the last time you picked up a book that was hard to put down?


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