February 03, 2003 12:00 PM

by Ian Rankin

Gruff, clever and a prodigious drinker, Inspector John Rebus gets in trouble with his colleagues on the Edinburgh police force. They banish him to police reform school, where he joins five other bad-boy cops who need to learn to play nice. The course is “their last-chance saloon. They were here to atone, to be resurrected.”

A simple premise, but things get awfully muddy in the double-crossing world of this bestselling Scottish crime novelist. In his 15th Rebus book, Rankin keeps the action aboil and the dialogue blunt while putting readers through a Sherlockian effort to sort out clues. Where other detectives wrap up the details in a pretty bow, Rebus gets his jobs done “with a tainted conscience, guilty deals and complicity.” For anyone who likes a mystery with literary flair and without a sermon, this is an eminently satisfying read. (Little, Brown, $19.95)

BOTTOM LINE: Lively suspense

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