In the 1960s, the infamous Bible John terrorised Scotland when he murdered three women, taking three souvenirs. Thirty years later, a copycat is at work, dubbed Johnny Bible.
DI John Rebus's unconventional methods have got him in trouble before - now he's taken away from the inquiry and sent to investigate the killing of an off-duty oilman. But when his case clashes head-on with the Johnny Bible killings, he finds himself in the glare of a fearful media, whilst under the scrutiny of an internal enquiry. Just one mistake is likely to mean losing his job - and quite possibly his life.
Rankin's Inspector John Rebus (Mortal Causes; Let It Bleed) is something of an outlaw cop, a hard-drinking, rock-and-roll-loving loner who tends to make his superiors see red. At the outset of his latest outing, he has been posted to one of Edinburgh's toughest precincts, where he is following the trail of Johnny Bible, a serial killer who seems to have taken over from Bible John, a real-life serial killer who terrorized Glasgow in the late 1960s. Rebus is also being investigated for allegedly colluding with a former colleague in planting evidence on a suspect who committed suicide. Although the last thing Rebus needs is a new case, he gets one when a North Sea oil rig worker on shore leave is pushed, or scared, out of a second-story window and onto iron railings below. This case leads Rebus to some crooked cops in Aberdeen, home base of the oilworkers; a Glasgow gangster and his bumbling son; and a pair of devious American club owners. The case also begins to tie in with Johnny Bible. Rankin's book is long and complex but rich in character and incident as Rebus dodges his investigators, follows his hunches into some violent confrontations, and explores the strange mid-ocean world of North Sea oil. Rankin's only misstep is introducing Bible John as a character seeking to catch and kill Johnny Bible: these passages lack the brooding authenticity that marks the rest of the book. Still, as Rankin notes in a fascinating afterword, nearly 30 years after his killing spree, Bible John remains at large.