If there is one constant in Ian Rankin’s stories it’s the Jekyll and Hyde duality of Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. On the one side there is the rarefied middle class intellectual world of the University and cultural elite, on the other the violence and sleaze of the criminal underworld.
Here both world’s collide when a group of art lovers decide to liberate some of the old masters locked away from public view in the National Museum of Scotland’s secure store. Trouble is they need a bit of extra help and that comes in the form of gangland boss Chib Calloway. It isn’t long before things start going wrong especially when a group of Norwegian Hell’s Angels get involved.
As with Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels, this is a great read, the evocation of both high and low Edinburgh is spot on and the twists and turns of the plot keep you teetering on the very edge of your seat until the final chapter. He even has a wry laugh at Edinburgh’s cultural vultures, take this exchange between the investigating policeman and a fine art auctioneer after the robbery:
‘So do you have any names for me?’
‘Art-lovers who might put a gang together.’
‘This is Edinburgh, Ransome.’