Mortal Causes by Ian Rankin

‘Mortal Causes’ is the 6th novel in Ian Rankin’s Rebus series.

Beneath the current streets of Edinburgh the old street of Mary King’s Close, evacuated after a plague in the 1600s has been paved over. In this tourist haunt, a brutally murdered body is found in an old butchers’ shop. Having served in Northern Ireland, Rebus immediately recognises the torture of the body as a ‘six pack’ (shot through the elbows, knees and ankles) but then shot through the head to finish him off. Together with DCI Kilpatrick from the Scottish Crime Squad and DI Abernathy from Special Branch in London, Rebus starts to investigate extreme Scottish Nationalist groups with possible links to Ireland.

Independently, as a favour for his friend Father Connor Leary, Rebus is checking into a youth group gone wrong on the very tough Garibaldi (Gar-B) estate.

The murdered body turns out to be the son of ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty (see ‘The Black Book’). Cafferty is in prison, but has his people watching over Rebus to make sure he does the right thing.

So, between the lads from the Gar-B, Big Ger, and Nationalist extremists, Rebus is getting roughed up and is in constant danger, particularly after another two murders are carried out. Rebus is still living with Dr Patience Atkins and is also worried for her safety.

After a while, Rebus’s separate investigations start to merge, and links to a fund raiser from the USA, and someone high up in the police are also discovered. And, with the Edinburgh festival in full swing, there are persistent threats of bomb attacks.

Eventually Rebus manages to uncover the rogue policeman, the would be bomber and the murderers. All while sustaining only minor injuries.


There were some very heavy issues touched on in this novel, but probably not detailed as much as they could be. Still, it was an exciting addition to the Rebus series. Next on the list is ‘Let it Bleed’.


Book Published 1994


See a full list of books by Ian Rankin

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