My education must be lacking. I saw the book Saints of the Shadow Bible (ISBN 978-1-4091-2948-6, Orion Books, 2013) on the Bookazine shelves and the author, Ian Rankin, rang no bells of recognition for me. On opening the book I found he has had 20 novels in his Inspector Rebus portfolio and was a well decorated writer in his native Scotland. Unfortunately there appears to be more American authors with works in Thailand than from other English speaking countries (and we won’t go into semantics over Scottish brogues, or help me the Doric dialect spoken in northern Scotland, but the author does use local dialect with words such as ‘sleekit’)!
It is touted as a crime thriller, and indeed it is packed full of criminals and coppers and does thrill.
The setting is in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, with many geographic markers to keep the interest up of those readers from Mid-Lothian. The rest of us just have to guess what Arthur’s Seat is, or even who Arthur was.
Rankin cleverly allows the plot to move into divergent streams, but keeping them parallel and occasionally intersecting to keep the reader on his toes. Good profiling is done on the main subject in the book, showing why police work is quite as stressful as it is. And why some of the police officers in the “Saints” abused alcohol as an escape.
The book’s plot moves very quickly, with most new chapters representing one day, making it also easy to follow the action, and indeed make one want to turn the pages. It is set in current day Scotland, with the referendum mentioned, along with the campaign by the Scottish National Party for partition from England.
In addition, Rankin goes to great lengths to build on the characters of the main players, so that you begin to feel that you are ‘there’ with first-hand information on the different police cases being investigated, by the different police officers.
Part of the plot involves researching old cold cases from 30 years previously, and it was interesting to see the differences in methods used by the police way back then, compared to the politically correct investigations done today.
A verdict, peculiar to Scotland, is mentioned, and is the one handed down as “Not Proven” where basically everyone knows who was the guilty party, but did not have enough corroborated evidence to make the charge stick. These verdicts stick in the investigating police craw, and can lead to fabrication of further evidence, but in this case to a very convoluted convergence of the plots, which tidies up all the loose ends.
This was a very well crafted book, right from the prologue through to the epilogue, and I could see why he has been such a successful crime fiction writer. Is it any better than some of the local writers of that genre? Definitely up there with them, but ultimately very difficult to ‘grade’ two books out of the same section, but at B. 385 this is again a bargain basement book, and will very enjoyably fill a weekend for you.