Review: Rather be the Devil (2016) by Ian Rankin

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Orion, 2016. Format Kindle Edition File Size: 1065 KB. Print Length: 317 pages. ASIN: B01CI1UQV6. ISBN: 978 01 4091 5943 8.

isbn9781409159407Book Description: Rebus investigates a cold case that just turned red hot. As he settles into an uneasy retirement, Rebus has given up his favourite vices. There’s just one habit he can’t shake: He can’t let go of an unsolved case. It’s the only pastime he has left, and up until now it’s the only one that wasn’t threatening to kill him. But when Rebus starts re-examining the facts behind the long-ago murder of a glamorous woman at a luxurious hotel – on the same night a famous rock star and his entourage were also staying there – the past comes roaring back to life with a vengeance. And as soon as Rebus starts asking questions about the long forgotten crime, a fresh body materializes. His inquiries reunite him with his old pals – Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox – as they attempt to uncover the financial chicanery behind the savage beating of an upstart gangster, a crime that suggests the notorious old school crime boss Big Ger Cafferty has taken to retirement as poorly as Rebus himself. As he connects the mysteries of the past to those of the present, Rebus learns – the hard way – that he’s not the only one with an insatiable curiosity about what happened in that hotel room 40 years ago and that someone will stop at nothing to ensure that the crime remains ancient history. A twisted tale of power, corruption, and bitter rivalries in the dark heart of Edinburgh, Rather be the Devil showcases Rankin and Rebus at their unstoppable best. (Source: Fantastic Fiction).

Rather be the Devil is the twenty-first book in the John Rebus series. The title was inspired by a John Martyn song from his 1973 album Solid Air called I’d Rather Be The Devil. Readers keen to avoid spoilers ought not to look up the full lyrics. (Source: The Scotsman)

My take: John Rebus finds himself still uncomfortable with the idea that he is now retired and has not been able to find what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. Besides his health is affected by his past excesses. He has given up smoking and drinking. One evening, while dinning in the restaurant of The Caledonian Hotel with his girlfriend, the pathologist Deborah Quant, he remembers that in that same hotel, nearly forty years ago, Maria Turquand was strangled in her room while waiting for her lover. It happens that, at the time, a famous rock star was staying in the same hotel with his entourage. But it was not possible to charge anyone and the murder remains unsolved thus far. However Rebus, despite being retired , takes an interest into this matter. Meanwhile, Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox find themselves investigating a same case, even though Fox is now stationed at the new Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh. The thing is that Darryl Christie, a promising and ambitious young gangster, has been severely beaten in front of the door to his house. Everyone believes Big Ger Cafferty is somehow involved in this. Almost simultaneously, a renowned investment banker has been missing for several days. Rather be the Devil will allow the three of them, Rebus, Clark and Fox, to gather together again to investigate several cases that, in a sense, will eventually become interrelated.

I’ve been very much looking forward to this new instalment in the Rebus series and I must admit  that Rather be the Devil has exceeded all my expectations. As always the plot is very well crafted and has managed to grab the attention of this reader; the story is nicely told and turns out to be entertaining and interesting at the same time; all the main characters are well developed and are shown highly credible. And, last but not least, it has a strong sense of place. I found remarkable how Ian Rankin has been able to keep the reader’s interest on his main character alive, and how, as time goes by, John Rebus has become more human. I would like to add I eagerly await a new Rebus novel. In the meantime I hope to find the time to read the rest of the books in the series I have not yet read. 

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Ian Rankin was born in the village of Cardenden in Fife in 1960. He went to school in Auchterderran and then Cowdenbeath where an English teacher recognised his writing ability and encouraged him to go into higher education, the first of his family to do so. He went to Edinburgh University where he studied English Literature and Language, graduating in 1982. Between 1983 and 1986 he returned to work on a PhD thesis on modern Scottish fiction, but became increasingly involved in his own writing. After university and before his success as a novelist, Rankin had a number of jobs which included working as a grape-picker, a swineherd, a journalist for a hi-fi magazine, and a taxman. Marrying in 1986, he lived for a time in London where he worked at the National Folktale Centre, followed by a period in France, before returning to Edinburgh where he still lives with his wife and two sons.  His first novel, The Flood, was published in 1986, and set in a decaying mining village; while the following year saw the publication of Knots and Crosses, the first of the ‘Rebus’ series, for which he is internationally renowned. Inspector Rebus, Rankin’s protagonist, is a somewhat cynical, middle-aged detective. Divorced and fond of whisky, he works in the darker heart of Edinburgh, often coming into conflict with police hierarchy, and retains a certain empathy for the criminal elements with whom he deals. This shadowy image of Edinburgh, projected in the novels, is far removed from the heritage and shopping opportunities with which the city is usually associated. To date, Rankin has written twenty-one ‘Rebus’ novels, four of which have been adapted for television, with further titles planned. There are also a number of novels under the pseudonym ‘Jack Harvey’. Rankin is now the most widely-read crime novelist in the UK, as well as having the Rebus novels translated into many languages. In 1988 he was elected a Hawthornden Fellow and in 1992 won the Chandler-Fulbright Award. His literary achievements have also been recognised by the Universities of Abertay Dundee and St Andrews, which have awarded him honorary degrees, and by an OBE in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Birthday Honours List of 2002. Consideration of Rankin’s work has begun to appear in university literature departments, highlighting a depth and complexity which, it is felt, crime fiction rarely exhibits. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons (from several sources but mainly: BBC).

The complete Rebus series, to date, is made up by the following titles: Knots and Crosses  (1987) (B); Hide and Seek (1991); Tooth and Nail (1992); Strip Jack (1992); The Black Book (1993); Mortal Causes (1994); Let It Bleed (1996); Black and Blue (1997); The Hanging Garden (1998); Dead Souls (1999); Set in Darkness (2000);The Falls (2001); Resurrection Men (2002) (A); A Question of Blood (2003); Fleshmarket  Close aka Fleshmarket Alley (2004); The Naming of the Dead (2006) (A); Exit Music (2007); Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) (A); Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) (A+); Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) (A+); Rather be the Devil (2016)

Rather be the Devil has been reviewed at Reviewing the evidence, Crime Fiction Lover, Crime Review, Crime Squad, Crime Review, For winter nights – A bookish blog,

Orion Publishing Group publicity page

Hachette Book Group publicity page

Ian Rankin Official website


Ian Rankin Interview: ‘I don’t know if I’ll write about Rebus again’ Published in The Scotsman, Saturday 22 October 2016.

Ian Rankin entry at The British Council website 

Rather be the Devil (Mejor ser el diablo) de Ian Rankin

Descripción: Rebus investiga un caso abierto que acabará al rojo vivo. Conforme se intenta acoplar a una jubilación que le incomoda, Rebus ha abandonado sus vicios favoritos. Sólo hay una costumbre que no puede quitarse de encima: no puede abandonar un caso sin resolver. Es el único pasatiempo que le queda, y hasta ahora es el único que no amenaza con matarlo. Pero cuando Rebus comienza a reexaminar los hechos tras el asesinato hace mucho tiempo de una sofisticada mujer en un hotel de lujo, la misma noche en que una famosa estrella del rock y su séquito también se alojaban allí, el pasado resurge con determinación. Y tan pronto como Rebus comienza a hacer preguntas sobre el crimen caído en el olvido, aparece un nuevo cadaver. Sus indagaciones lo reúnen con sus viejos compañeros, Siobhan Clarke y Malcolm Fox, cuando  tratan de descubrir las artimañas financiera tras la salvaje paliza a un gángster advenedizo, un crimen que sugiere que el famoso jefe del crimen de la vieja escuela, Big Ger Cafferty, se ha tomadao la jubilación tan mal como el propio Rebus. Conforme relaciona los enigmas del pasado con los misterios del presente, Rebus aprende, a las duras, que no es el único con una curiosidad insaciable sobre lo que sucedió en esa habitación de hotel hace 40 años y que alguien no se detendrá ante nada para asegurarse que el crimen continúa siendo historia pasada. Un retorcido relato sobre poder, corrupción y amargas rivalidades en el oscuro corazón de Edimburgo, Rather be the Devil nos muestra a Rankin y Raºebus en su irreflenable mejor momento. (Fuente: Fantastic Fiction, mi traducción libre).

El título está inspirado  en una canción de John Martyn en su álbum de 1973 Solid Air llamada I’d Rather Be The Devil. Los lectores interesados ​​en evitar spoilers no deberían buscar la letras completa. (Fuente: The Scotsman)

Mi opinión: John Rebus se encuentra todavía incómodo con la idea de que ahora está jubilado y no ha sido capaz de encontrar lo que va a hacer con el resto de su vida. Además su salud se resiente de sus excesos pasados. Ha tenido que dejar de fumar y de beber. Una noche, mientras comía en el restaurante del Hotel Caledonian con su novia, la patóloga Deborah Quant, recuerda que en ese mismo hotel, hace casi cuarenta años, María Turquand fue estrangulada en su habitación mientras esperaba a su amante. Se da la circunstancia de que, en ese momento, una famosa estrella del rock se alojaba en el mismo hotel con su séquito. Pero no fue posible acusar a nadie y el asesinato sigue sin resolverse hasta ahora. Sin embargo Rebus, a pesar de estar retirado, se interesa por este asunto. Mientras tanto, Siobhan Clarke y Malcolm Fox se encuentran investigando un mismo caso, a pesar de que Fox ahora está destinado en la sede del nuevo campus escocés de investiagción criminal en Gartcosh. La cosa es que Darryl Christie, un prometedor y ambicioso joven gángster, ha sido golpeado con fureza frente a la puerta de su casa. Todo el mundo cree que Big Ger Cafferty está de alguna manera involucrado en esto. Casi al mismo tiempo, un renombrado banquero de inversión lleva varios días desaparecido. Rather be the Devil va a permitir que los tres, Rebus, Clark y Fox, se reúnan de nuevo para investigar varios casos que, en cierto sentido, terminarán por estar interrelacionados.

Esperaba con mucho interés esta nueva entrega en la serie de Rebus y debo admitir que Rather be the Devil ha superado todas mis expectativas. Como siempre la trama está muy bien elaborada y ha logrado captar la atención de este lector, la historia está bien contada y resulta ser entretenida e interesante al mismo tiempo, todos los personajes principales están bien desarrollados y se muestran altamente creíbles. Y, por último pero no por ello menos importante, tiene un fuerte sentido del lugar. Me pareció destacable cómo Ian Rankin ha sido capaz de mantener vivo el interés del lector por su personaje principal, y cómo, con el paso del tiempo, John Rebus se ha vuelto más humano. Me gustaría añadir que espero con impaciencia una nueva novela de Rebus. Mientras tanto espero encontrar el tiempo para leer el resto de los libros de la serie que todavía no he leído.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Ian Rankin (Cardenden, Fife, 28 de abril de 1960) es un escritor escocés de novela policíaca, y uno de los autores de más exito del Reino Unido. Sus obras más conocidas son las protagonizadas por el Inspector John Rebus. En junio de 2002 le fue concedida la Orden del Imperio Británico. La biografía oficial de Rankin afirma que, antes de ser escritor a tiempo completo, trabajó como recogedor durante la vendimia, porquero, recaudador de impuestos, y periodista para una revista musical. También fue brevemente tutor de literatura en la Universidad de Edimburgo. Tras graduarse en dicha universidad se mudó a Londres, donde residió cuatro años, y luego a la Francia rural para otros seis, durante los cuales desarrolló su carrera como novelista. Ganó el Chandler-Fulbright Award en su edición 1991-1992, uno de los premios de ficción detectivesca más prestigiosos del mundo y en 2010 el Premio Pepe Carvalho de novela negra. En la actualidad vive en Edimburgo.

La serie completa de Rebus, hasta la fecha, está compuesta por los siguientes títulos: Nudos y cruces (Knots & Crosses, 1987); El escondite (Hide & Seek, 1991); Uñas y dientes (Tooth & Nail, 1992; Jack al desnudo (Strip Jack, 1992); El libro negro (The Black Book, 1993); Causas mortales (Mortal Causes, 1994); Let it Bleed, 1996; Black & Blue (Black and Blue, 1997); El jardín de las sombras (The Hanging Garden, 1998); Dead Souls, 1999; En la oscuridad (Set in Darkness, 2000); Aguas turbulentas (The Falls, 2001); Resurreción (Resurrection Men, 2002); Una cuestión de sangre (A Question of Blood, 2003) ; Callejón Fleshmarket (Fleshmarket Close / Fleshmarket Alley, 2004); Nombrar a los muertos (The Naming of the Dead, 2006); La música del adiós (Exit Music, 2007); Sobre su tumba (Standing in Another Man’s Grave, 2012); La Biblia de las tinieblas (Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2013); Perros salvajes (Even Dogs in the Wild, 2015); Rather Be the Devil, 2016.

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