Inspector Rebus

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Ian Rankin at the Edinburgh International Book Festival IanRankin ExitMusic.jpg
Ian Rankin at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

The Inspector Rebus books are a series of detective novels by the Scottish author Ian Rankin. The novels, centred on Detective Inspector John Rebus, are mostly based in and around Edinburgh.


Content and style

The books are written in third person limited omniscient mode, focusing on Rebus, with the point of view sometimes shifting to colleagues, petty criminals or suspects. The stories belong to the genre of police procedural detective fiction, with a hardboiled aspect that has led to them being dubbed 'Tartan Noir'.

All the novels involve murders, suspicious deaths or disappearances, with Rebus taking on the task of solving the mystery. The resulting investigation (or investigations) depict a stark, uncompromising picture of Scotland, particularly Edinburgh, characterised by corruption, poverty, and organised crime. Along the way, Rebus has to struggle with internal police politics, a struggle exacerbated by his tendency to bend the rules and ignore his superiors. He also has to deal with his own personal issues, which are often directly or indirectly related to the current investigation, risking further friction with his colleagues.

Rankin has won critical praise for his elaborate and inventive plots. In particular, the later books have multiple plotlines encompassing dozens of distinctive characters and locations. These span a broad spectrum of Scotland, including council estates, tenements, business districts, nightclubs, prisons, dying mining towns, secluded villages and desolate hillsides, as well as the better-known pubs and streets of Edinburgh. Some of these locations are fictional, although they may be based on real places. For example, the Pilmuir estate is a conflation of the two real Edinburgh locations Pilton and Muirhouse. Other locations, such as the Oxford Bar, Arden Street, and St Leonards police station, are real. Frequent references to real places or local politics firmly ground the Rebus series in the real world.

Another strong feature of the series is the continual linking between the books. This may be in reference to background, previous cases and storylines, or through the characters Rebus encounters, for example, the notorious Edinburgh crime lord 'Big Ger' Cafferty. Rankin does this in such a way that reading them in order, prior knowledge of the Rebus 'history' is not required. Everything is explained in enough detail in order not to confuse new readers, but does not become repetitive for extensive readers of the series.

Rebus is an old-fashioned man who bottles things up and lets them affect his personal life. Apart from his daughter Sammy (Samantha Rebus) he has five women in his life: Rhona, his separated wife; Patience Aitken, his ex-girlfriend; Gill Templer, his immediate boss and sometime girlfriend; Jean Burchill, lady friend and friend of Gill Templer, who first appears in The Falls ; and, in the later books, particularly when Rebus is retired, his girlfriend is Deborah Quant, a pathologist.

The series also focuses on the character of Rebus's protege, DS Siobhan Clarke. Clarke first appears in The Black Book , and continues to have a larger role as the series goes on.

Music plays a large part in the Rebus novels. In the first several novels, Rebus is a jazz enthusiast, listening to the likes of Miles Davis. However, by the publication of the 1997 Gold Dagger Award-winning Black and Blue , Rebus's musical taste has shifted towards classic and progressive rock. Musical groups and tracks are often directly mentioned in Rankin’s novels, whether playing on Rebus’s Hi-Fi, or in his car, or passed between characters on mix tapes or borrowed albums. Music also weaves throughout the narrative, setting the scene, or making a pun - such as ‘Born to Be Wild’ by Steppenwolf in Tooth and Nail , or a scene in The Hanging Garden where ‘Psycho Killer’ by the Talking Heads plays in Rebus’s car. Several bands appear in Rankin’s works multiple times, such The Rolling Stones, Joy Division, Wishbone Ash, Rory Gallagher, The Cure, The Velvet Underground, and many more.

Publishing history

The Inspector Rebus series is commercially successful in the United Kingdom, accounting for an estimated 10% of all crime book sales in the UK as of 2015. [1] The books routinely sell half a million copies each, [2] and have been translated into 36 languages. [3] As of 2015 they are published in the UK by the Orion Publishing Group. [4] The seventeenth was thought to be the last as Rebus turned sixty, the age of retirement for CID officers, [5] and in 2009 Rankin produced a fresh protagonist in the form of Inspector Malcolm Fox of the police's Complaints and Conduct Department. In this book ( The Complaints ) and its 2011 sequel ( The Impossible Dead ) Rebus and his colleague (Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke) did not appear. However at the Hay Festival in June 2012 Rankin announced a further book, entitled Standing in Another Man's Grave, subsequently released in November 2012. [6] This was followed by further novels in which Rebus (now a civilian), Clarke (now promoted Detective Inspector) and Fox all served as protagonists.


  1. Knots and Crosses (1987)
  2. Hide and Seek (1991)
  3. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992)
  4. Strip Jack (1992)
  5. The Black Book (1993)
  6. Mortal Causes (1994)
  7. Let It Bleed (1996)
  8. Black and Blue (1997)
  9. The Hanging Garden (1998)
  10. Dead Souls (1999)
  11. Set in Darkness (2000)
  12. The Falls (2001)
  13. Resurrection Men (2002)
  14. A Question of Blood (2003)
  15. Fleshmarket Close (published in the US as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004)
  16. The Naming of the Dead (2006)
  17. Exit Music (2007)
  18. ’’The Complaints’’(2009)
  19. Standing in Another Man's Grave (2012)
  20. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013)
  21. The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Short Stories (2014)
  22. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)
  23. Rather Be the Devil (2016)
  24. In a House of Lies (2018)
  25. A Song for the Dark Times (2020)

Short stories

The Beat Goes On (2014) [lower-alpha 1]

Prologue (Preface)
  • Dead and Buried
  • Playback
  • The Dean Curse
  • Being Frank
  • Concrete Evidence
  • Seeing Things
  • A Good Hanging
  • Tit for Tat
  • Not Provan
  • Sunday
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • The Gentlemen’s Club
  • Monstrous Trumpet
  • My Shopping Day
  • Talk Show
  • Trip Trap
  • Castle Dangerous
  • In the Frame
  • Facing the Music
  • Window of Opportunity
  • Death is Not the End (novella)
  • No Sanity Clause
  • Tell Me Who to Kill
  • Saint Nicked
  • Atonement
  • Not Just Another Saturday
  • Penalty Claus
  • The Passenger
  • A Three-Pint Problem
  • The Very Last Drop
  • Cinders
Rankin on Rebus




All of the Rebus novels are available as audiobooks, some in several versions: narrated by different people or in abridged and unabridged form. Narrators include:

Three of the novels have won Spoken Word Awards: Strip Jack (Gold), A Question of Blood and Resurrection Men (Silver).

An innovative new design, the illustrated audiobook was created for Rebus's Scotland (the CD box contains a 32-page booklet containing photographs from the book).


  1. Knots and Crosses (1987)
  2. Hide and Seek (1991)
  3. Playback
  4. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992)
  5. The Dean Curse
  6. Being Frank
  7. Concrete Evidence
  8. Seeing Things
  9. A Good Hanging
  10. Tit for Tat
  11. Not Provan
  12. Sunday
  13. Auld Lang Syne
  14. The Gentlemen's Club
  15. Monstrous Trumpet
  16. My Shopping Day
  17. Strip Jack (1992)
  18. Talk Show
  19. Trip Trap
  20. The Black Book (1993)
  21. Castle Dangerous
  22. Mortal Causes (1994)
  23. In the Frame
  24. Facing the Music
  25. Let It Bleed (1996)
  26. Black and Blue (1997)
  27. The Hanging Garden (1998)
  28. Window of Opportunity
  29. Death is Not the End
  30. Dead Souls (1999)
  31. No Sanity Clause
  32. Set in Darkness (2000)
  33. Tell Me Who to Kill
  34. The Falls (2001)
  35. Resurrection Men (2002)
  36. A Question of Blood (2003)
  37. Saint Nicked
  38. Fleshmarket Close (published in the US as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004)
  39. Atonement
  40. Not Just Another Saturday
  41. Penalty Claus
  42. The Passenger
  43. A Three-Pint Problem
  44. The Naming of the Dead (2006)
  45. Exit Music (2007)
  46. ’’The Complaints’’(2009)
  47. The Very Last Drop
  48. Standing in Another Man's Grave (2012)
  49. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013)
  50. Cinders
  51. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)
  52. Rather Be the Devil (2016)
  53. In a House of Lies (2018)
  54. A Song for the Dark Times (2020)

The Beat Goes On (2014) has all the short stories in chronological order.

Other adaptations


Thirteen of the novels were dramatised for television between 2000 and 2007 in four series of Rebus . John Hannah played Inspector Rebus in the first series, before being replaced by Ken Stott for the next three. Series four of the programme also included an original episode, which unlike the other thirteen episodes aired, was not based on any of the Rankin novels. It was entitled "The First Stone".


Ron Donachie starred as Rebus in BBC Radio 4's dramatizations of The Falls (2003), Resurrection Men (2004), Black and Blue (2008), Strip Jack (2010), The Black Book (2012), Set in Darkness (2014) and A Question of Blood (2016), having previously played Rebus's Chief Constable in the TV series.


A brand new story written for the stage by Ian Rankin and adapted by playwright Rona Munro entitled Rebus: Long Shadows had its premiere at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 20 September 2018 before touring the UK. The production was directed by Roxana Silbert and starred Charles Lawson as Rebus.

See also


    1. The 2015 paperback edition of "The Beat Goes On" includes two stories not in the 2014 hardback edition; My Shopping Day and Cinders.

    Related Research Articles

    Detective Inspector John Rebus is the protagonist in the Inspector Rebus series of detective novels by the Scottish writer Ian Rankin, ten of which have so far been televised as Rebus. The novels are mostly set in and around Edinburgh. Rebus has been portrayed by John Hannah and Ken Stott for Television, with Ron Donachie playing the character for the BBC Radio dramatisations.

    Ian Rankin Scottish writer

    Ian James Rankin is a Scottish crime writer, best known for his Inspector Rebus novels.

    <i>Rebus</i> (TV series) British television detective drama series

    Rebus is a British television detective drama series based on the Inspector Rebus novels by the Scottish author Ian Rankin. The series was produced by STV Studios for the ITV network, and four series were broadcast between 26 April 2000 and 7 December 2007. The first series starred John Hannah as DI John Rebus; and was co-produced by Hannah's own production company, Clerkenwell Films. After Hannah quit the series, the role of Rebus was re-cast, with Ken Stott appearing as Rebus in three subsequent series, which were produced in-house by STV.

    <i>The Black Book</i> (Rankin novel)

    The Black Book is a 1993 crime novel by Ian Rankin, the fifth of the Inspector Rebus novels. It is the first book to feature Siobhan Clarke and Morris Gerald Cafferty appears as a main character. It is also the first book where Rebus is based at St Leonards police station.

    <i>Knots and Crosses</i>

    Knots and Crosses is a 1987 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the first of the Inspector Rebus novels. It was written while Rankin was a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh. In the introduction to this novel, Rankin states that Rebus lives directly opposite the window in Marchmont that he looked out of while writing the book.

    <i>Hide and Seek</i> (Rankin novel)

    Hide and Seek is a 1991 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the second of the Inspector Rebus novels. This novel is not to be confused with James Patterson's 1996 novel Hide and Seek.

    <i>Tooth and Nail</i> (novel)

    Tooth and Nail is a 1992 crime novel by Ian Rankin, originally entitled Wolfman. It is the third of the Inspector Rebus novels.

    <i>Strip Jack</i>

    Strip Jack is a 1992 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the fourth of the Inspector Rebus novels.

    <i>Let It Bleed</i> (novel) Book by Ian Rankin

    Let it Bleed is a 1995 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the seventh of the Inspector Rebus novels. The US edition has a final chapter which the UK edition does not have, as the author's 'Introduction' explains.

    <i>Black & Blue</i> (Rankin novel)

    Black & Blue is a 1997 crime novel by Ian Rankin. The eighth of the Inspector Rebus novels, it was the first to be adapted in the Rebus television series starring John Hannah, airing in 2000.

    <i>Dead Souls</i> (Rankin novel)

    Dead Souls is a 1999 crime novel by Ian Rankin that features Inspector Rebus. The title refers both to Joy Division's song "Dead Souls" and to the 1842 Nikolai Gogol novel Dead Souls; quotes from the latter appear at the beginnings of the two divisions of the book. The novel won the French Grand Prix de Littérature Policière upon its publication there in 2004.

    <i>Set in Darkness</i>

    Set in Darkness is a 2000 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the eleventh of the Inspector Rebus novels. It won the 2005 Grand Prix du Roman Policier (France) under the title Du fond des ténèbres. The title comes from the poem "The Old Astronomer" by Sarah Williams. In an interview, Rankin linked the quote to the rise of a restored Scottish Parliament and the redemption of the Inspector in the novel.

    <i>Resurrection Men</i>

    Resurrection Men is a 2002 novel by Ian Rankin. It is the thirteenth of the Inspector Rebus novels. It won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2004.

    <i>Fleshmarket Close</i>

    Fleshmarket Close is a 2004 crime novel by Ian Rankin, and is named after a real close in Edinburgh between the High Street and Market Street, crossing Cockburn Street. It is the fifteenth of the Inspector Rebus novels. "Fleshmarket" is the Scots term for butcher's market. It was released in the US under the title Fleshmarket Alley. The novel was the basis for the second episode in the second Rebus television series starring Ken Stott which was aired in 2006.

    <i>The Naming of the Dead</i>

    The Naming of the Dead is a crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the sixteenth of the Inspector Rebus novels. It is set in Edinburgh in July 2005, in the week of the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

    <i>A Good Hanging and Other Stories</i>

    A Good Hanging and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by crime writer Ian Rankin.

    Ron Donachie Scottish actor

    Ronald Eaglesham Porter, known professionally as Ron Donachie, is a Scottish actor. He is known for starring as DI John Rebus in the BBC Radio 4 dramatisations of the Ian Rankin "Rebus" detective novels and for his supporting roles in films The Jungle Book (1994), Titanic and television series Doctor Who and Game of Thrones.

    <i>The Beat Goes On</i> (short stories)

    The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Short Stories is an anthology of all the Inspector Rebus short stories (30) by Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin, plus the novella Death Is Not the End; though the Rebus short story "Well Shot" published in 2nd Culprit (1993) is not included. It is Rankin's third collection of short stories

    <i>In a House of Lies</i>

    In a House of Lies is the 22nd instalment in the Inspector Rebus series written by Ian Rankin. In a House of Lies entered the hardback chart at No. 1 on the first week of its release.


    1. "Ian Rankin returns to Rebus after year-long sabbatical". BBC News. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
    2. Post, The Sunday. "Rebus will return to solve one more case, author Ian Rankin reveals". The Sunday Post. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
    3. "Ian Rankin presents Library with his archive - National Library of Scotland". Retrieved 28 May 2020.
    4. "Ian Rankin Returns with the 20th Rebus". Orion Publishing Group. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
    5. Quinn, Thomas (17 September 2006). "Rankin goes home to plot Rebus's end". The Observer . Retrieved 9 December 2019.
    6. "Rebus to make return appearance in new Ian Rankin novel". BBC News. 5 June 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2019.