Inspector Rebus

The Inspector Rebus books are a series of detective novels by the Scottish author Ian Rankin. The novels, centred on Detective Inspector John Rebus, are mostly based in and around Edinburgh.

Content and style

The books are written in third person limited omniscient mode, focusing on Rebus, with the point of view sometimes shifting to colleagues, petty criminals or suspects. The stories belong to the genre of police procedural detective fiction, with a hardboiled aspect that has led to them being dubbed 'Tartan Noir'.

All the novels involve murders, suspicious deaths or disappearances, with Rebus taking on the task of solving the mystery. The resulting investigation (or investigations) depict a stark, uncompromising picture of Scotland, characterised by corruption, poverty, and organised crime. Along the way, Rebus has to struggle with internal police politics, a struggle exacerbated by his tendency to bend the rules and ignore his superiors. He also has to deal with his own personal issues, which are often directly or indirectly related to the current investigation, risking further friction with his colleagues.

Rankin has won critical praise for his elaborate and inventive plots. In particular, the later books have multiple plotlines encompassing dozens of distinctive characters and locations. These span a broad spectrum of Scotland, including council estates, tenements, business districts, nightclubs, prisons, dying mining towns, secluded villages and desolate hillsides, as well as the better-known pubs and streets of Edinburgh. Some of these locations are fictional, although they may be based on real places. For example, the Pilmuir estate is a conflation of the two real Edinburgh locations Pilton and Muirhouse. Other locations, such as the Oxford Bar, Arden Street, and St Leonards police station, are real. Frequent references to real places or local politics firmly ground the Rebus series in the real world.

Another strong feature of the series is the continual linking between the books. This may be in reference to background, previous cases and storylines, or through the characters Rebus encounters, for example, the notorious Edinburgh crime lord 'Big Ger' Cafferty. Rankin does this in such a way that reading them in order, prior knowledge of the Rebus 'history' is not required. Everything is explained in enough detail in order not to confuse new readers, but does not become repetitive for extensive readers of the series.

Rebus is an old-fashioned man who bottles things up and lets them affect his personal life. Apart from his daughter Sammy (Samantha Rebus) he has five women in his life: Rhona, his separated wife; Patience Aitken, his ex-girlfriend; Gill Templer, his immediate boss and sometime girlfriend; Jean Burchill, lady friend and friend of Gill Templer, who first appears in The Falls. In the later books, particularly when Rebus is retired, his girlfriend is Deborah Quant, a pathologist.

His protege is DS Siobhan Clarke, with whom he does not have a romantic relationship.

While Rebus is old fashioned in his choices and opinions, he is not a bigot. This comes to the fore clearly in Fleshmarket Close. In this novel, Rebus also reveals that his grandfather came from Poland.

Rebus is a fan of 1960s popular music. He often connects situations with an apt song from the 1960s.

Publishing history

The Inspector Rebus series is commercially successful in the United Kingdom, accounting for an estimated 10% of all crime book sales in the UK as of 2015.[1] The books now routinely sell half a million copies within the first three months of printing and have been translated into 26 languages.[2] As of 2015 they are published in the UK by the Orion Publishing Group.[3] The seventeenth was thought to be the last as Rebus turned sixty, the age of retirement for CID officers,[4] but at the Hay Festival in June 2012 Rankin announced a further book, entitled Standing in Another Man's Grave, subsequently released in November 2012.[5] Saints of the Shadow Bible was published in 2013.


  1. Knots and Crosses (1987)
  2. Hide and Seek (1991)
  3. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992)
  4. Strip Jack (1992)
  5. The Black Book (1993)
  6. Mortal Causes (1994)
  7. Let It Bleed (1996)
  8. Black and Blue (1997)
  9. The Hanging Garden (1998)
  10. Dead Souls (1999)
  11. Set in Darkness (2000)
  12. The Falls (2001)
  13. Resurrection Men (2002)
  14. A Question of Blood (2003)
  15. Fleshmarket Close (published in the US as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004)
  16. The Naming of the Dead (2006)
  17. Exit Music (2007)
  18. Standing in Another Man's Grave (2012)
  19. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013)
  20. The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Short Stories (2014)
  21. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)
  22. Rather Be the Devil (2016)
  23. In a House of Lies (2018)

Short stories

The Beat Goes On (2014)[lower-alpha 1]

Prologue (Preface)
  • Dead and Buried
  • Playback
  • The Dean Curse
  • Being Frank
  • Concrete Evidence
  • Seeing Things
  • A Good Hanging
  • Tit for Tat
  • Not Provan
  • Sunday
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • The Gentlemen’s Club
  • Monstrous Trumpet
  • My Shopping Day
  • Talk Show
  • Trip Trap
  • Castle Dangerous
  • In the Frame
  • Facing the Music
  • Window of Opportunity
  • Death is Not the End (novella)
  • No Sanity Clause
  • Tell Me Who to Kill
  • Saint Nicked
  • Atonement
  • Not Just Another Saturday
  • Penalty Claus
  • The Passenger
  • A Three-Pint Problem
  • The Very Last Drop
  • Cinders

Rankin on Rebus


  • Rebus - The Early Years [Knots and Crosses, Hide and Seek, Tooth and Nail] (1990)
  • Rebus - The St. Leonards' Years [Strip Jack, The Black Book, Mortal Causes] (2001)
  • Rebus - The Lost Years [Let it Bleed, Black and Blue, The Hanging Garden] (1998)
  • Rebus - Capital Crimes [Dead Souls, Set in Darkness, The Falls] (2004)
  • Rebus - Three Great Novels [Resurrection Men, A Question of Blood, Fleshmarket Close] (2008)
  • The Complete Short Stories [A Good Hanging and Other Stories, Beggars Banquet, Atonement] (2005)


  • Rankin, Ian (2005). Rebus's Scotland: A Personal Journey. London: Orion. ISBN 978-0-75285-245-4. - non-fiction book discussing the background to the Rebus novels.
  • Rankin, Ian (1996). Hullah, Paul; Muroya, Yozo (eds.). Playback and Talk Show : New Edinburgh Crimes. Tokyo: Kenkyūsha. ISBN 4327421324. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009.


All of the Rebus novels are available as audiobooks, some in several versions: narrated by different people or in abridged and unabridged form. Narrators include:

Three of the novels have won Spoken Word Awards: Strip Jack (Gold), A Question of Blood and Resurrection Men (Silver).

An innovative new design, the illustrated audiobook was created for Rebus's Scotland (the CD box contains a 32-page booklet containing photographs from the book).


  1. Dead and Buried
  2. Knots and Crosses (1987)
  3. Hide and Seek (1991)
  4. Playback
  5. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992)
  6. The Dean Curse
  7. Being Frank
  8. Concrete Evidence
  9. Seeing Things
  10. A Good Hanging
  11. Tit for Tat
  12. Not Provan
  13. Sunday
  14. Auld Lang Syne
  15. The Gentlemen's Club
  16. Monstrous Trumpet
  17. My Shopping Day
  18. Strip Jack (1992)
  19. Talk Show
  20. Trip Trap
  21. The Black Book (1993)
  22. Castle Dangerous
  23. Mortal Causes (1994)
  24. In the Frame
  25. Facing the Music
  26. Let It Bleed (1996)
  27. Black and Blue (1997)
  28. The Hanging Garden (1998)
  29. Window of Opportunity
  30. Death is Not the End
  31. Dead Souls (1999)
  32. No Sanity Clause
  33. Set in Darkness (2000)
  34. Tell Me Who to Kill
  35. The Falls (2001)
  36. Resurrection Men (2002)
  37. A Question of Blood (2003)
  38. Saint Nicked
  39. Fleshmarket Close (published in the US as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004)
  40. Atonement
  41. Not Just Another Saturday
  42. Penalty Claus
  43. The Passenger
  44. A Three-Pint Problem
  45. The Naming of the Dead (2006)
  46. Exit Music (2007)
  47. The Very Last Drop
  48. Standing in Another Man's Grave (2012)
  49. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013)
  50. Cinders
  51. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)
  52. Rather Be the Devil (2016)
  53. In a House of Lies (2018)

The Beat Goes On (2014) has all the short stories in chronological order.

Other adaptations


Thirteen of the novels were dramatised for television between 2000 and 2007 in four series of Rebus. John Hannah played Inspector Rebus in the first series, before being replaced by Ken Stott for the next three. Series four of the programme also included an original episode, which unlike the other thirteen episodes aired, was not based on any of the Rankin novels. It was entitled "The First Stone".


Ron Donachie starred as Rebus in BBC Radio 4's dramatizations of The Falls (2003), Resurrection Men (2004), Black and Blue (2008), Strip Jack (2010), The Black Book (2012), Set in Darkness (2014) and A Question of Blood (2016), having previously played Rebus's Chief Constable in the TV series.


A brand new story written for the stage by Ian Rankin and adapted by playwright Rona Munro entitled Rebus: Long Shadows had its premiere at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 20 September 2018 before touring the UK. The production was directed by Roxana Silbert and starred Charles Lawson as Rebus.

See also


    1. The 2015 paperback edition of "The Beat Goes On" includes two stories not in the 2014 hardback edition; My Shopping Day and Cinders.


    1. "Ian Rankin returns to Rebus after year-long sabbatical". BBC News. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
    2. Laing, Peter (4 November 2015). "Rebus takes a potshot at Edinburgh's trams in new Rankin novel". Retrieved 9 December 2019.
    3. "Ian Rankin Returns with the 20th Rebus". Orion Publishing Group. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
    4. Quinn, Thomas (17 September 2006). "Rankin goes home to plot Rebus's end". The Observer. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
    5. "Rebus to make return appearance in new Ian Rankin novel". BBC News. 5 June 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
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