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A Question of Blood    by Ian Rankin order for
Question of Blood
by Ian Rankin
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Inspector John Rebus is in hot water again - literally as well as figuratively this time. In hospital after burning his hands, he comes under suspicion of engineering the death (in a house fire) of a small time crook who has been stalking his protegé, Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke (even she wonders whether he did the deed). In fact, Rebus spends most of the novel dodging his boss Gill Templar and Complaints and Conduct (Internal Affairs) investigators so that he can help an old friend, Bobby Hogan, with a tough case. Not having the use of his hands, Rebus seconds Siobhan to assist. The novel shows us seven days of investigation.

Ex-SAS soldier Martin Fairstone has shot two students and wounded another at a private school in a small coastal town. Why did he do it, and what are the 'Gruesome Twosome' - 'numpties from Her Majesty's armed forces' who are all over the evidence - looking for? The wounded boy's father, a Scottish Parliament MP with a grudge against the police, is milking the case with the media, resulting in some entertaining rounds with Rebus. Hogan wants Rebus' insights, knowing the Inspector carries baggage from his own SAS experiences. There are oddities in the case, and Rebus uncovers connections to a car accident that killed another young man, and to the victim's Goth sister, Miss Teri, whose Internet site shows a real-time webcam view of her bedroom. The Inspector also finds out that one of the dead students was a relative. He and Siobhan follow the trail to an SAS operation on Jura.

As usual, Rankin gives us much more than the typical police procedural. His loner hero muses on the nature of families, and mourns the death of a friend and colleague, burnt out by the job. And does the Inspector still see Siobhan as a younger colleague that he respects and mentors, or is more developing between them? I can't wait to find out. Though John Rebus does have a 'knight-in-tarnished-armor thing', he always gets his dragon, and it always makes fiery reading.

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