Rather Be the Devil

After more than 15 mysteries starring the maverick, whisky-drinking Inspector John Rebus, it seemed Ian Rankin (Even Dogs in the Wild) had left him behind, instead writing about Inspector Malcolm Fox, a teetotalling, do-it-by-the-books cop. But, in his last few novels, Rankin has crafted some delightful mysteries starring these two as part of an unlikely trio of investigators: Rebus, Fox and DI Siobhan Clarke.

When Darryl Christie is badly beaten, Clarke immediately suspects the Edinburgh gangster's long-term rival, Big Ger Cafferty, who has supposedly retired from the life of crime. Fox and his team of specialist investigators are called in when the organized crime alerts go off, and Clarke and Fox turn to the retired Rebus as their unofficial assistant, since his knowledge of Big Ger Cafferty goes back decades.

Over the years Rebus has achieved a grudging respect for his former nemesis, especially since the young new villains aren't playing by the rules. But things get more complicated as Rebus can't resist poking his nose into a cold case, Fox and Clarke find a former cop dead under suspicious circumstances, and Christie's supposed assailant vanishes from police surveillance. In addition, Fox is facing some huge problems with his sister, who struggles with addiction and who tangentially gets involved in their case against Cafferty.

With his spare Scottish prose, some hilarious moments between Rebus and Fox as their disparate personalities clash, and a deft weaving of many separate plot lines, Rather Be the Devil is a practically perfect mystery. And its shocking denouement will leave the reader eager for the next in the series. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

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