This is the first book in the Inspector Rebus police detective series which is set in Edinburgh.

This is one of the realistic detective series where pretty much every one is guilty of something, most of the characters are assholes, and there are no happy endings. I can read these every once is a great while but not often.

John Rebus is a police detective in Edinburgh. He’s also former military and his experiences in the Special Air Service where so horrible that he’s suppressed most his memories from that time. He’s divorced and has an 11-years old daughter Samantha. He lives alone in an apartment in a block of flats which smells like cat piss. He drinks a lot and smokes even more. In essence, his life sucks. Yet, he’s devoted to his work. Lately, someone has been sending him anonymous letters which contain a short message and a string tied to a knot.

In contrast, his brother Michael is a very successful hypnotist who owns a big house and a car, and has a happy marriage. John is quite envious of Michael’s life especially since John feels that their father always favored Michael.

John is working a couple of cases but like many other police officers, he’s pulled away from them and assigned to the case of the Edinburgh strangler. He has already killed two eleven year-old girls and hasn’t left any clues. The press and the police are getting desperate.

John doesn’t get along with the chief detective Anderson who assigns him the task of going through the previous murders and sex crimes in the off chance that the strangler might have killed before. John goes to work with his equally hard-drinking and chain smoking partner.

This was written in 1987 and apparently female officers were then very rare. In this book, there’s only one female cop and she’s there just to be the romantic interest for Rebus.

Otherwise, the book was well written and at least to me it felt more realistic than many of the USAian detective novels where officers seem to do things that defy logic. Definitely recommended to people who like realistic mysteries.