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Book Nook: Even Dogs in the Wild, by Ian Rankin

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Ian Rankin's series of crime novels featuring his sleuth John Rebus is one of my all-time favorites. His latest Rebus novel is one of the best ones yet. Here's my review that ran recently in the Cox Ohio newspapers:

Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus detective novel, “Even Dogs in the Wild,” is out now and it is sensational.

Rankin began writing this series twenty-some years ago. John Rebus, his brittle sleuth, was aging in real time. Rebus served on the police force in Edinburgh, Scotland. Several years ago Rebus had reached the mandatory retirement age. That was it, Rankin ended the series. His fans were aghast. How could he do this?

At that point Rankin, who usually cranks out a new novel every year like clockwork, started writing another series featuring Malcolm Fox. Fox worked for the department of internal affairs. The Scottish police call that department “The Complaints.” Fox is one of those squeaky clean guys who was despised by the rank and file police because he spent his time investigating them for potential misconduct.

Rankin put out a couple of books in the Malcolm Fox series. Meanwhile the uproar over his retirement of John Rebus continued to grow. Eventually Rankin relented. He pulled Rebus out of retirement and now he has him investigating cold cases as a consultant to the police. And Malcolm Fox is still around. In one recent book the now retired Rebus was spending time with his former nemesis, the aging Edinburgh crime boss “Big Ger” Cafferty” and their meetings were making Malcolm Fox suspicious.

“Even Dogs in the Wild” is the latest Rebus and this novel marks a transition for Malcolm Fox. He has left “The Complaints” and is now a member of the regular police force. He’s also romantically involved now with Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke. Rebus has been Clarke’s mentor over the years and he feels protective of her.

The story starts with a flashback, two thugs have arrived at a desolate gangland burial spot. There’s a body in the trunk of their car. They are preparing to dispose of it when the first big surprise of the novel occurs. Then we return to the present. The police are outside the home of crime boss “Big Ger Cafferty.”

One of Cafferty’s neighbors heard a gunshot. There’s a bullet hole in Cafferty’s window. He denies that there was gunfire. He claims that he broke the window by accident. He refuses to let the police in his house. Rebus is contacted because the police realize that Cafferty will allow Rebus to come inside.

And once again the retired Rebus is doing what he loves best; investigating a crime. Meanwhile Malcolm Fox has been assigned to work with an undercover police unit from Glasgow that is tracking the movements of the aging boss of a crime syndicate from that city. He’s arrived in Edinburgh with his posse of thugs. What are they up to? As Fox investigates the situation he begins to finally comprehend why cops cannot always do things by the book.

The author took the rare year off before he wrote this novel. Revivified, his creative juices were flowing fast-this story truly sings. Aging crime bosses, turf wars, dark secrets, official corruption — it is all here.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them.  Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.