Tooth and Nail, by Ian Rankin
This is another of Rankin’s early Rebus books; number three in the series, so the character is still developing, to some extent, but compared to the only other one of the Rebus canon I have so far reviewed, A Question of Blood, he is easily recognisable as the character we know—those of us who are already Rebus aficionados, that is. He is, however, out of his comfort zone, transplanted from his Edinburgh stamping ground to the glowering, febrile fleshpot that is the sassenachs’ capital. The story was originally entitled Wolfman, but Rankin’s American publisher thought this made it sound like a horror novel [although it is, of a sort], so recommended changing the title to the current one for the American market, and Rankin thought it sensible to do the same for his domestic audience.
Rebus has been somewhat unwillingly seconded to the Met, because of a perceived skill—unwarranted, in Rebus’s opinion—in catching serial killers; one of whom, who has acquired the sobriquet Wolfman, has been latterly terrorising London. This being the case, Rebus has to operate without the support of his Lothian and Borders Police [as it was then—the early 1990s—known] colleagues, especially his trusted lieutenant, DS Siobhan Clarke, and he is unsure, with some justification, it has to be said, how well he will be received south of the border; or understood, come to that. He is partnered with Inspector George Flight who, it later transpires, actually requested Rebus to assist them, having read about his prowess, which Rebus considers, not exclusively modestly, to be unnecessarily glamourised. As usual, Rebus is something of a maverick in his conduct, compared to the stolid Flight, but whose fastidious attention to detail & procedure Rebus comes to admire, only too well aware of the ease with which police prosecutions can be derailed by clever barristers [Advocates in Scotland] zeroing in on sloppy police work or behaviour.
This is, however, also an opportunity for Rebus to catch up with his ex-wife, Rhona, who is now living in London with their daughter, Samantha, whose current boyfriend is definitely the sort who sets alarm bells ringing in Rebus’s head, and not just from paternal or proprietorial concern. Rebus’s alienation & solitude is alleviated somewhat by a young psychologist, Dr Lisa Frazer, who coincidentally has Scottish ancestry, and has offered to profile the killer they are seeking; she is also not immune to Rebus’s grizzled charm, so a very probably unprofessional, if not actually unethical, relationship quickly develops, but it does focus Rebus’s mind, to some extent, on the psychological makeup of the man they are seeking; although it is safe to reveal that they also have to consider that they could be looking for a woman. This allows me to say that this is part of the delicious red herring which Rankin throws into this story—I thought I had worked out who the killer was, but nope: I was wrong.
The final section before the killer is caught is quite amusing, and could make for very good television, if the right supporting actor could be found [I’m not suggesting myself here—not because of false modesty—because I know my appearance would be inappropriate], but I fear Rebus’s television career is now in the past, which I regret; the stories, however, will continue to be read & enjoyed for a long time to come. To those of us who already know & love the character, there is no need to recommend this story; other than to add it to the collection, if not already in your possession; but if it should be your first Rebus story, you will not be disappointed and, hopefully, it will ignite a desire to find all of them if possible. The paperback I read was published in 1998 [1992, Wolfman, Century] by Orion Books, London, ISBN 978-0-7528-8355-7.