A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin

‘A Question of Blood’ is the 14th instalment in the Rebus series by Ian Rankin, and once again John Rebus is in serious trouble with his seniors. One of Rebus’s few friends – Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke was being stalked by a small-time crook – Martin Fairstone. Now Fairstone has been found burnt to death in his apartment, the same night that he was seen talking to Rebus, and Rebus has burns on his hands. So, Rebus is being investigated for Fairstone’s murder.

Rebus is relieved when Bobby Hogan requests his help on another case – it gets Rebus out of the office and away from his boss – Gill Templar.

An ex-SAS officer – Lee Herdman, has entered a school with a gun, killing two students and injuring another before turning the gun on himself. With Rebus having been in the army and having applied for the SAS, Hogan believes that he may be able to help determine why Herdman went on his shooting rampage.

Investigating Herdman’s background only serves to ‘muddy the waters’. The injured student – James Bell, is behaving oddly and it turns out that Herdman was sleeping with another student – 15 year old Teri Cotter. Then Rebus discovers that the army is also investigating Herdman, even though he left the army several years earlier.

And somehow the school shooting and Fairstone’s murder end up being related through a flamboyant arms dealer known as Peacock Johnson.

Rebus approaches the case in his usual fashion – disregarding etiquette and upsetting anyone who gets in his way. Meanwhile he does his best to avoid those who are trying to investigate him.

Eventually, with Siobhan’s life on the line, Hogan and Rebus work out what has really been going on.


This novel really shows how Rebus’s life is descending into chaos, but also what an excellent detective he is under the rough, heavy-drinking surface. I’m looking forward to seeing what he gets up to in the next novel – ‘Fleshmarket Close’.


Book Published 2003


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