The third nominee for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best Novel is, like Thomas H. Cook, no newcomer to the awards scene. 1998 brought a nomination of Black and Blue, an Inspector Rebus novel (didn’t win), but Rebus brought home the Edgar for him in 2004 for Resurrection Men. Now author Ian Rankin up again, this time for Standing in Another Man’s Grave.
I’ve been a Rebus fan since I discovered him in the early books, when he was a mid-career detective with a young daughter and an estranged wife, smoking too much, drinking too much, and spending way too much time on the job. It’s 25 years later, and Rebus is retired but can’t leave the life behind – still working on the job, now as a civilian. As always, Rebus does things his own way… as always, he wreaks havoc for himself and others…. and, as always, he gets results.
I reviewed the book when it first came out, you can read that review here. Big thumbs up from me then. On re-reading for the Edgars, my experience was just as positive, and I had the chance to revisit some of the reasons why.
The book’s plot is satisfyingly twisty, with a resolution most readers won’t see coming. In addition to the suspense generated by the mystery itself, there is plenty of character-driven tension as well, as Rebus walks too close to the line for Internal Affairs officer Malcolm Fox. Introduced as the protagonist in Rankin’s The Complaints, Fox couldn’t be more opposite to – or more suspicious of – John Rebus. Fox is out to prove Rebus is dirty, but he’s got a softer spot for Rebus’ old pal Siobhan Clarke. Both men hope that her relationship with Rebus won’t derail her successful career. Plus, there’s an interesting side plot focusing on Rebus’ nemesis/frenemy, Big Ger Cafferty. Cafferty may be sidelined, but he’s still active behind the scenes and it’s fun to see him out-maneuvered for once.
It’s a solid book in the series and ranks, in my eyes, about as high as Edgar-winning Resurrection Men. Comparing Standing to Sandrine is challenging, as they are so different in type. In many ways, Cook is attempting a deeper, more nuanced novel, but he doesn’t completely pull it off. Standing in Another Man’s Grave is a classic police procedural, perfectly presented. Therefore, Rankin ranks higher.