Black and Blue by Ian Rankin

‘Black and Blue’ is the 8th novel in Ian Rankin’s series featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus, and as usual, Rebus is out on his own tracking down a murderer while surrounded by corruption and those who would like to see his investigation shut down.

About twenty years earlier, Rebus (then a junior officer) was involved in a case where Spaven, a known criminal, was jailed for murder. Rebus has always known that Spaven may have been set up. His boss at the time , Lawson Geddes, had a vendetta against Spaven. Now both Geddes and Spaven have committed suicide and Rebus is left holding the bag.

At about the same time there was a serial killer known as Bible John. After three murders, he stopped killing and was never identified.

Now there is another serial killer on the loose. A copycat of Bible John, he has been dubbed Johnny Bible. And Bible John has come back to track down his namesake.

Rebus is also investigating the death of Allan Mitchison, an oil worker at a rig off Aberdeen. He died while on a break in Edinburgh and his death leads Rebus to investigate a crime family with possible drug connections.

Eventually, all the crimes connect to each other in some way.

With Rebus facing internal investigation for the Spaven case, he is assigned a ‘minder’. It is his old friend Jack Morton who has completely cleaned up his life. While Jack gets Rebus to give up cigarettes and alcohol, Rebus drags Jack to the margins of lawful police work.

The conclusion to the story is fast paced and tense as Rebus identifies corrupt police officers in addition to tracking down murderers.


This novel was action packed and exciting. At times I felt there may have been a bit too much going on, and at the end I wasn’t sure which issues where fully resolved and which were left hanging.

The next in the series is ‘The Hanging Garden’. I wonder how long Rebus will manage to stay ‘on the wagon’.


Book Published 1997


See a full list of books by Ian Rankin

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