Hide and Seek (Rankin novel)

Hide and Seek is a 1991 crime novel by Ian Rankin. It is the second of the Inspector Rebus novels. This novel is not to be confused with James Patterson's 1996 novel Hide and Seek.

Hide and Seek
First edition
AuthorIan Rankin
GenreDetective fiction
PublisherBarrie & Jenkins
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages210 pp
Preceded byKnots and Crosses 
Followed byTooth and Nail 

Plot summary

Detective Inspector John Rebus finds the body of an overdosed drug addict in an Edinburgh squat, laid out cross-like on the floor, between two burned-down candles, with a five-pointed star painted on the wall above. Some of his colleagues are inclined to categorise it as the routine death of a "junkie", but Rebus is perturbed by some unusual facts of the case: a full package of heroin in the dead man's room, and some mysterious bruises on his face and body. Rebus takes seriously a death which looks more like a murder every day, and he begins to investigate the true circumstances of the death. As part of his investigation, Rebus finds the young woman named Tracy who knew the dead man and heard his terrifying last words: "Hide! Hide!"

It emerges that the dead man was a photographer who took and hid some sensitive photos in a specialist private members' club - Hyde's - where highly connected people in society watch illegal boxing. Rebus is able to arrest Hyde's owner and several high profile members, but to his outrage and disgust all the prisoners die suspicious deaths: the powers-that-be are covering it up to prevent scandal.

Real-life scandal

Shortly after Rankin moved to London, there was a real-life case of male prostitutes bribing lawyers and judges, similar to some parts of the book: "questions were asked in parliament" and two lawyers began to investigate the police investigation. "To everyone's surprise, this inquiry found that the allegations were false. Police officers involved in the case found themselves demoted..."[1]

Connections to other Rankin books

  • Rian, a character who appears in Rankin's first novel, The Flood, reappears in this book.
  • Rebus remembers journalist Jim Stevens from Knots and Crosses, and that he has since moved to London and married a girl "half his age" - a reference to Stevens in Watchman.
  • When encountering a rentboy, Rebus has a brief flashback to Gordon Reeve from Knots and Crosses.
  • Recurring characters Brian Holmes, a fellow detective, and Superintendent "Farmer" Watson first appear here.

Writing Hide and Seek

In the Exile on Princes Street foreword to Rebus: The Early Years, Rankin says this was his second attempt at updating Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into then-modern Edinburgh ("one reviewer 'got it'"), and with this book he began to like Rebus as a character and thought he could use him as a recurring mouthpiece for stories about his views on Scotland.[2]


  1. Rebus: The Early Years, page viii; 2000 printing, Orion Books
  2. Rebus: The Early Years, page vii - viii; 2000 printing, Orion Books

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