Ian Rankin’s “The Beat Goes On: the Complete Rebus Stories” collects 30 stories and a novella about John Rebus, Edinburgh’s favorite detective.
‘The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories’
by Ian Rankin
Little, Brown, 480 pages, $26
In these 30 tales and a novella, Ian Rankin has fun with Detective Inspector John Rebus of Edinburgh, one of the great literary crime solvers of our time.
The brooding Rebus of the dark novels never completely disappears — the character study “Sunday” shows us the veteran detective wrestling with his conscience over killing a cornered drug dealer. But Rankin exposes other facets of this music-loving, pint-imbibing crazy diamond.
One criminal is undone by Rebus’ recognition of a Hockney print on the wall. In “The Dean Curse,” the DI scoffs at Dashiell Hammett’s novel “The Dain Curse,” but soon finds himself in a confusing tangle of his own. In “Trip Trap,” Rebus uses an incorrect crossword puzzle answer to prove a nasty old fellow was pushed down the stairs.
In the entertaining “Monstrous Trumpet,” Rebus dreads the arrival of a French counterpart on a busman’s holiday, only to discover in Monsieur Cluzeau (say it aloud to yourself, then laugh) a Gallic brother in arms as they investigate the disappearances of a naughty sculpture.
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Several stories were written as Christmas specials for newspapers and magazines. “Saint Nicked” nods playfully toward Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” with Christmas firs standing in for Doyle’s geese.
Edinburgh, always in view, takes a few leading turns. In “Castle Dangerous,” the improbably named Sir Walter Scott turns up dead at the top of the monument dedicated to his famed namesake — and Rebus finds pivotal evidence in a library of the “Waverley” author’s novels. The city’s Fringe Festival stars in “A Good Hanging.”
Rebus is a Van Morrison kind of detective. No guru, no method for him, just sharp eyes, a good nose and one foot in front of the other on an often-treacherous path. Put “The Beat Goes On” in your guest room for the pleasure of a traveler, weary or insomniac, who needs a stout companion for an evening’s adventure.