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A Heart Full of Headstones: An Inspector Rebus Novel

Review

A Heart Full of Headstones: An Inspector Rebus Novel

When Ian Rankin’s A HEART FULL OF HEADSTONES opens, it contains an image that will shock fans of his long-running John Rebus series. Rebus is being led from prison in handcuffs and taken to a courtroom where a jury that is operating offsite due to the pandemic is prepared to pass judgment on him as the accused in a controversial case.

Before we go any further, Rankin takes us back into the recent past to explain how all of this transpired. The book has two separate plotlines --- one involving Rebus, who is now operating as a private investigator, and the other featuring Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, an old colleague of his. Inevitably, these stories will intersect but not necessarily in a way that will help Rebus.

"The circumstances that will end up putting Rebus 'in the dock' as a suspect will remain a secret in this review. All I can say is that it makes for some truly complex and intriguing moments and some of Ian Rankin’s most intense writing in this series."

Rebus takes on an assignment from a known criminal boss who he used to pursue when he was on the side of law and order. Morris Gerald “Big Ger” Cafferty has commissioned Rebus to search for Jack Oram, who is missing and presumed dead but may have escaped with a great deal of his money. There has been a rumor of Oram’s reappearance, so Rebus must get to the bottom of this, even though his supposed widow claims he is long dead.

Meanwhile, Clarke is tasked with tracking down Francis Haggard, an infamous cop who has suddenly gone missing under highly suspicious circumstances. Her search for Haggard ruffles many feathers within her own police brotherhood. As a result, she has to team up with Malcolm Fox of the internal affairs team, known in Scotland as The Complaints. While Clarke and Fox will never be friends, they have a vested interest in locating Haggard and identifying the potential corruption with which he may have been involved.

Rebus and Clarke interact during their separate cases, which makes for some wonderful nostalgic moments for fans of this great series. Clarke both looks up to and respects Rebus and all that he did while on the force, but she is leery of the fact that he has aligned himself with a shady character like Big Ger and is naturally concerned about his intentions. Rebus is also dealing with his own conflict as he clearly sees that Cafferty has put others on the same case, which he continues to run up against while trying to get his own answers.

The two cases converge when Clarke receives a photo of Haggard that was sent to Cafferty. It depicts Haggard at a murder scene, and it could be quite incriminating if it’s legitimate. Here we find Rebus and Clarke almost at counter-purposes, which will not bode well when the tide eventually turns against Rebus in an unbelievably bad way. Clarke still sees Rebus as that cop who bent every rule to the breaking point to get results and regarded every unsolved case as a personal affront. Watching this man possibly get convicted is something she never expected to see in her lifetime.

The circumstances that will end up putting Rebus “in the dock” as a suspect will remain a secret in this review. All I can say is that it makes for some truly complex and intriguing moments and some of Ian Rankin’s most intense writing in this series.

I had the opportunity to speak at length with Rankin years ago at ThrillerFest, and he told me that he always saw actor Brian Cox portraying John Rebus. While I could not envision that at the time, now seeing a much older, crustier version of Rebus in A HEART FULL OF HEADSTONES makes me think that a wily veteran actor like Cox could do him justice.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 21, 2022

A Heart Full of Headstones: An Inspector Rebus Novel
by Ian Rankin

  • Publication Date: October 18, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316473634
  • ISBN-13: 9780316473637