“Fleshmarket Close” by Ian Rankin

This is another one of the two huge volumes I received as a gift from an English friend – it’s obvious that Ian Rankin doesn’t fancy short novels. Inspector Rebus never investigates one case at a time – he has to have several, and his friend DS Clarke (Siobhan) usually works on a few more thus making things more interesting. This time Rebus is in charge of the murder of a Turkish immigrant – at first glance it looks like a common racist attack – locals going for an unwanted newcomer “taking their jobs” or whatever – but Rebus suspects there’s more to this murder than meets the eye.

At the same time Siobhan is trying to find a missing teenager girl, the murderer of a young rapist just out of jail and the source of the two skeletons found in a cellar of a bar while changing the floor. Rebus helps her when he can, but once they happen Rubai internetu to stand in each other’s way – when they need to interrogate the same suspect – and then he shows the worst of his character. He does it all the time anyway.

Rebus seems to drink a little less than in “Black & Blue”, but still a lot. He is getting older too, and his subordinates are hinting none too subtly that it’s time for him to retire. He no longer has a desk of his own, but his intuition is still as sharp as ever, and his sense of duty still here. It, of course, takes much more than a quarrel over a suspect to do anything to his friendship with Siobhan – before long we see them working together again. And succeeding.

In this book Ian Rankin raises a huge social problem – illegal immigrants and their miseries. The locals feel no welcome for them; the government puts them in prison-like temporary shelters while investigating their claims and treats them much like criminals; the real criminals prey on them and turn them into slaves. Rebus has to deal with everything, to dig into the whole unpleasant business – and though his heart seems hardened enough with years of a police officer’s job, and his favourite image is “Mr Angry”, his compassion for these unfortunate people is obvious. That’s what brings him together with Caro Quinn, an artist and a social activist devoting her life to defending the immigrants’ rights, but their friendship doesn’t last. Caro overdoes on everything and, like most people of her kind, never knows where to stop and where to draw the line. So, after a night or two spent in pleasant conversations they both go their separate ways.

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