In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin, the 22nd Rebus novel. 22nd! Let’s just take stock of that for a moment, and while I compose my thoughts, here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Amazon

About the Book


Everyone has something to hide
A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent
Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Google Play | Apple Books

My Thoughts

Not going to lie – I have been putting off writing this review for quite some time. Not for any bad reasons – this is not going to be a critical review so if that’s what you’re looking for, sorry to disappoint. No. I’ve put it off for two reasons. Number one – I both read and listened to this book, which makes it an altogether different experience and, at times, harder to review as a result. Switching between narration and reading does change the way in which I absorb what is happening quite significantly so I have to think that little bit harder about what I want to write. The second reason … Well that’s simple. I am a little bit … uncertain … as to how to even begin to review the book.

Why? Well it’s book number twenty-two for heaven’s sake. I don’t think there is very much left to be said about the strength of the series, the appeal of the characters, the very special blend of humour and hard hitting story telling that has come to signify the world of John Rebus. In A House of Lies is every bit as much of this as its predecessors, so how do I even begin to frame a unique and insightful review around that? There are no new words left. (Can you tell I’m stalling here …?)

The book is really divided into two distinct storylines. The first, and the most integral part of the novel, is the investigation into the murder of a private investigator, Stuart Bloom, who had been missing since 2006. With links back to the Police department, significantly one John Rebus who was involved in the original investigation into Bloom’s disappearance, all eyes are upon Siobhan Clarke and the team who are tasked with solving the case. The man is found in handcuffs, meaning that the list of suspects includes both criminals and police officers alike, and with Rebus as both witness and potential suspect, there are those who would love a chance to bring down the man who has always been a thorn in their side. It adds both drama and tension to the story as, whilst we readers know Rebus isn’t involved, the chance that Professional Standards could finally have a opportunity to bring him down puts the team, specifically Clarke, under pressure to prove otherwise.

The secondary story involves Clarke and gives Rebus a chance to investigate a case which is far removed from his own and in which there can be no accusations of tampering. He sets to trying to find out who is threatening Clarke and why she is becoming a target for vandalism. This is, in itself, a dark and twisted case, but one which sees Rebus in his element.

The series shows no sign of slowing, in spite of our favourite hero starting to show his age and struggle with some of the basic tasks he would once have taken for granted. His wit is as acerbic as ever, this intelligence never in doubt, and his ability to dodge curveballs unrivaled. He is a brilliant character, not really dulled by time or retirement. As you would expect though, Rebus takes a bit of a back seat in this investigation, Clarke and Fox taking centre stage more and more. Both are great characters in their own right, more than capable of carrying a story, but I must admit I do like the scenes where the three of them are together all the more as Fox and Rebus make perfect sparring partners, and Clarke always manages to keep Rebus in check whilst still reluctantly capitulating to his will. Well, someone needs to check on and feed Brillo when Rebus isn’t around …

Speaking of fascinating sparring partners, there is good amount of banter and light hearted conflict between Rebus and Cafferty in this book too, as the investigation into Stuart Bloom’s death brings them right back to Cafferty’s front door. I’m always fascinated by the way the two characters interact, the mutual respect combined with the natural distrust given the disparity between their chosen careers.

This is really engrossing story, a blend of cold case and new, which sees the team enter a number of very familiar worlds, and exposing some very long held secrets. This isn’t the fastest paced of the novels, the level of jeopardy may not even seem to be as high given that the victim died so many years ago, and yet the threat is always there. Perhaps not from where you would expect, but there is still menace in the actions of many.

I really enjoy this series and this is another cracking instalment. We may have to wait longer between releases but it just makes the anticipation greater. We all know the series has to end sometime as even Rebus can;t go on forever, but until it does, I’ll enjoy what is to come, and make the most of the vast library of Rebus titles I can go back and gorge on at leisure.

About the Author

Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature.

His first Rebus novel was published in 1987, and the Rebus books are now translated into thirty-six languages and are bestsellers worldwide.Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He is the recipient of four CWA Daggers including the prestigious Diamond Dagger in 2005. In 2004, Ian won America’s celebrated Edgar Award. He has also been shortlisted for the Anthony Award in the USA, won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, the French Grand Prix du Roman Noir and the Deutscher Krimipreis. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Hull and the Open University.

A contributor to BBC2’s Newsnight Review, he also presented his own TV series, Ian Rankin’s Evil Thoughts. Rankin is a No.1 bestseller in the UK and has received the OBE for services to literature, opting to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons. 

Author Links: Website | Twitter

8 thoughts on “In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

  1. How old is Rebus now? I remember he had retired and then returned so he must be getting in a bit to be on active duty still. Rankin has said he wished when he started writing the series that he had made him a younger man so he had more time for the character to age. But he never realised the series would be so popular and he’d still be writing about him 20plus years later.

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    1. Ha ha. Fairly old (and it ageing so well anymore. Retirement COPD and a demanding dog but he’s still going strong, mentally if not physically.

      Not sure how much longer he’ll survive but I look forward t reading his final adventures


      1. I’ve not watched the TV shows to be honest. I’m not sure I’d want to. I never find the actors are unite who I picture in my head when I read and that makes it weird to witness if that makes sense.


  2. Great review and I love this series. As you say it gets better with age in many ways not something that applies to many others.

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