Reviews and Such Books

A Song for the Dark Times – Ian Rankin

Early this year, I went through a time of reduced income. That means I haven’t been able to catch up on the reading I would like. A Song for the Dark Times, by Ian Rankin is one of those books. It’s been out since the beginning of summer, but I’ve only just got around to reading it

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin
The cover for A Song for The Dark Times, the latest Rebus novel.

A Song for the Dark Times

In the last installment of the series, In a House of Lies, Rebus is starting to slow down. In the opening of A Song for the Dark Times, that theme is picked up again. Rebus, aided by Siobhan Clarke, is moving from his second-floor flat, to a smaller flat on the ground-floor. Bad lungs are taking their toll on him.

Siobhan has taken a week’s leave to help Rebus. Not surprisingly, her help is only grudgingly accepted. When Rebus shoos her away after a couple of days in the moving process, she drops by the station to see if there is any case she can help out with.

Meanwhile, Rebus’s attempt to settle into his new flat is interrupted by an early morning phone call from his daughter Samantha. Her husband Keith has gone missing and so she turns to dad, along with the police.

A Story of Damaged Relationships

A Song for the Dark Times spends much of the story, focused on damaged relationships. From Rebus and his daughter, to his daughter and her husband, to the suspects and other victims, There are many damaged and broken relationships throughout this story.

Keith has gone missing with no explanation. On top of this, Samantha has personal secrets that her father knows nothing about. Rebus has neglected his relationships as much as he has neglected his body. While he tries to assist Samantha, his initial reactions are more police officer than father. Rather than bringing him closer to his daughter this threatens to push them farther apart.

The search for Keith leads Rebus to a place called Camp 1033, a one-time camp for enemy aliens, captured enemy soldiers in WWII, and anyone else deemed a threat during that time. Many prisoners ended up in the community at the end of the war, and it appears there are old hurts still abounding.

While visiting the camp, Rebus stumbles upon Keith’s body. One mystery solved: Where did Keith go to? Another one started: Who killed Keith? It’s from this point that the action in A Song for the Dark Times, really picks up. 

Meanwhile, Siobhan is getting herself involved in solving a stabbing that involves a Saudi living in Scotland, making the case politically sensitive. This brings in Malcolm Fox, sent from Major Crimes to make sure that political ends are put before crime solving.

Along the way Rebus has to deal with DS Creasey from Inverness. Rebus’s reputation precedes him, and being retired, he finds his fellow officers are not as co-operative a they used to be. Especially since Creasey has the perfect suspect for Keith’s death. His wife, Rebus’s daughter, Samantha.

The case in A Song for the Dark Times, like so many, involves, power, money, and corruption. Not surprisingly, lurking behind the scenes is “Big Ger” Cafferty.  He’s looking to sink his claws into Malcolm Fox, and by extension major crimes, and Jennifer Lyons, Fox’s boss. However, like Rebus, “Big Ger” is diminished and things are more challenging than he expects.

In the end, the killers are caught. Yet, the resolution of the cases leaves you with lots of questions, and expectations that the next Rebus story will bring some of them to a head.

General Thoughts on A Song For the Dark Times

One of the things I really like about A Song for the Dark Times, is the way in which Rebus is aging. He has neglected himself and his relationships throughout his life, and now trying to fix them is slow-going and painful. If he changes his diet anymore, I may have to take him out of the booze as main source of calorie category.  I also appreciate that age is having the same effect on “Big Ger” Cafferty.

Broken  relationships are another major theme in A Song for the Dark Times. The most prominent is the one between Rebus and Samantha. She turns to him for help, but can’t be sure she fully trusts him. The neglect he has shown over the years is barrier that needs to be overcome.

I hope, in the future, we will see more of Fox and Clarke working together. Also, more of Jennifer Lyons in future stories would be welcome. I really enjoyed A Song for the Dark Times, as I think it pushes the Rebus story forward into new and interesting directions. Especially as it seems that being vulnerable and learning to let others into his life, is more frightening than any criminal that Rebus has faced.


By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.