Book Review: In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

In a House of Lies

Ian Rankin

Inspector Rebus Series

December 31, 2018

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin is a gripping story of corruption and consequences where a cold case involving a missing private investigator threatens to unearth skeletons from Rebus’s past.

Hard-hitting, gritty crime fiction is synonymous with Scottish author Ian Rankin. For decades, he has seen his books become chart toppers internationally, and his primary series featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus has been made into two different television programs with the BBC.

Rankin and Rebus fans can officially rejoice because his latest release, In a House of Lies, meshes together the recently retired John Rebus along with some old colleagues—namely D.I. Siobhan Clarke—as well as the star of Rankin’s other series, Inspector Malcolm Fox, who deals with internal complaints within the police department.

Siobhan Clarke has been brought into the ACU: Police Scotland’s Corruption Unit, and she is one of the principal investigators on the newly re-opened cold case. The body of a missing private investigator named Stuart Bloom is found in the trunk of a car that was driven to the middle of the woods. The corpse was handcuffed by both the wrists and ankles. John Rebus is contacted because he knew the deceased. Rebus recalled that Bloom was gay and was last doing some security work for a film producer of less than reputable titles by the name of Jackie Ness.

Clarke is discovering why the original case was so bungled, and it seems like things lead directly back to Police Scotland’s front-line officers as well as the detectives handling things back in 2006. Malcolm Fox is also called in due to his prior work with the Complaints Department and current detail with Major Crimes—especially when alleged criminal activity and negligence may have been attributable to the Police Department.

Malcolm Fox learns that the consistent opinion of those who were around this case was that you need not dig too deep to uncover the skeletons that were involved. John Rebus, who is actively involved as a consultant with the case, knows that there is much more than his legacy at stake, and the same peril he felt in 2006 still exists today. This means he could just as easily be erased now if he presses on too hard. All he can do is impart words of wisdom to D.I. Clarke, like when he refers to the case as a “perfect storm” and reminds her that “every storm has a centre. Find your way there, and you’ll crack the case.”

What has always drawn me to Ian Rankin’s writing, and the reason why I believe he has enjoyed so much success as a crime writer, is that his characters are all real, three-dimensional beings who pop right off the page through his prose and instantly become memorable for the readers that are spending time with them. He doesn’t get tied down in minutiae like deep forensics—although it’s an important part of each case. Instead, he devotes his writing to deal with the emotions of all the characters involved in a case, thereby making it that much easier to follow along as his fictional investigators make the impossible possible. In a House of Lies is no different, and it is nice to see the recently retired John Rebus still a vital and necessary figure whose fans, like myself, just love spending more quality time with.

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  1. Ghostwriters for hire

    I’ve been a fan of Ian Rankin’s Rebus from his early books but I think it’s time for one of us to part company.
    Earlier books were cutting edge but I found this one to be tired, cliched and with a story that stretches the imagination too often and relies on chance just a bit too much.
    If this was the work of a newer writer, I might have given it four stars because even though the writing fails to sparkle the story is better than average. But truth is I expect better from Rankin.

  2. Dena

    Did the reviewer read the book? Bloom was only “handcuffed” on his ankles. Rebus pushed his way in- he was not contacted. Malcolm Fox no longer works for the Complaints (ACU), which you corrected later in the review. I’m about halfway through and am interested in reading a review because I felt a bit impatient & wondered what others thought.

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    If this was the work of a newer writer, I might have given it four stars because even though the writing fails to sparkle the story is better than average. But truth is I expect better from Rankin.

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    I’ve read this book ian rankin i’ve heard about this book with one of my friend, it’s quite amazing book highly recommended.

  7. Jenny

    I have always remained a great fan of the author, Ian Rankin, but I wasn’t very convinced with the story. I missed the intense aspect in this book which has remained a significant highlight of Rankin’s past novels. I genuinely expect much better work from Rankin in the future

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    Ian Rankin is one of my favorite writers but I found this book to be tired and cliche-filled. It’s not that it hasn’t had some good moments; rather, they’re too few in number compared with other books by an established talent like Ian Rankin who can do no wrong for me as far as mysteries go (especially cops!). So instead if giving him five stars which has become automatic since starting college

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