In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

It had been a long time since I had read a novel by Ian Rankin. Several of his books in the recent past had not grabbed me as much as his earlier books, but during lockdown I bought several novels by my favourite authors and In a House of Lies was one of those books.

The Blurb

Private investigator Stuart Bloom was missing, presumed dead.
Until now.

His body is discovered in an abandoned car – in an area that had already been searched…

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke combs through the mistakes of the original investigation. After a decade without answers, it’s time for the truth.

But it seems everyone involved with the case is hiding something.

None more so than Siobhan’s own mentor: former detective John Rebus. The only man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him.



The Review

There is no doubt that Ian Rankin is one of Britain’s finest crime fiction writers. However, he has a problem of his own making and it is an issue the author himself acknowledges: he allowed John Rebus to age in real time therefore his main character is well past 60 and therefore at a point he can no longer serve in the police force. So the choice Rankin has made is to use John Rebus as a non-serving source of information and assistance to Police Scotland. Siobhan Clarke, is used by the author as the link between Police Scotland and Rebus and in In a House of Lies she has his aid whether she wants it or not.

When skeletal remains turn up in the boot of a car, found in a deep gulley close to the Edinburgh. Rebus is sure he knows the name of the deceased. It is the body of a man who disappeared over a decade ago. Rebus was involved in the original and much criticised missing person operation.

For much of the first half of the book Rebus is side-lined as Clarke and the rest of team kick-off the murder investigation. Another of Rankin’s creations, Malcolm Fox, is parachuted in to join the team. Now I find Fox a dull and humourless character so, about half way through this book, I was getting restless. Then, Clarke asked Rebus to look into a separate matter, involving a young man who had confessed to the murder of his girlfriend and the story improved.

The pages contained Rebus’s dry one-liners and the energy of the whole thing seemed to increase exponentially. There is no doubt that the pages light up when Rebus is about. However in this book the author seemed unable to decide which was to be the main character: Rebus, Clarke or Fox. There are a number of potential murderers, loads of cops and too many faces from the past as organised crime bigwigs Big Ger Cafferty and Darryl Christie both make an appearance, but neither seems to add much.

I remain a huge fan of this series, now in it’s 22nd instalment, and of Ian Rankin. I do wonder where Rankin takes things next time around. Whatever he does, I hope he manages to write another gripping novel. Despite the faults of In a House of Lies, it is a great read and I must recommend it, if you enjoy crime mysteries.

The Author

Ian James Rankin, OBE, DL, FRSE was born in Fife, Scotland on 28 April 1960. He is a Scottish crime writer, best known for his Inspector Rebus novels. He

graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987; the Rebus books are now translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents.

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow. He is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award, and he received two Dagger Awards for the year’s best short story and the Gold Dagger for Fiction. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, and Edinburgh.

A contributor to BBC2’s Newsnight Review, he also presented his own TV series, Ian Rankin’s Evil Thoughts, on Channel 4 in 2002. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, and opted to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

Val Penny


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