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A Question of Blood: An Inspector Rebus Novel Hardcover – February, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Inspector Rebus Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (February 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316095648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316095648
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #999,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Given his contempt for authority, his tendency to pursue investigative avenues of his own choosing, and his habitually ornery manner, it's a wonder that John Rebus hasn't been booted unceremoniously from his job as an Edinburgh cop. He certainly tempts that fate again in A Question of Blood, which finds him and his younger partner, Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke, trying to close the case of a withdrawn ex-soldier named Lee Herdman, who apparently shot three teenage boys at a Scottish private school, leaving two of them dead, before turning the pistol on himself.

"There’s no mystery," Siobhan insists at the start of this 14th Rebus novel (following Resurrection Men). "Herdman lost his marbles, that’s all." However, the hard-drinking, chain-smoking Rebus, who'd once sought entry into the same elite regiment in which Herdman served (but ultimately cracked under psychological interrogation), thinks there's more motive than mania behind this classroom slaughter. Perhaps something to do with the gunman's role in a 1995 mission to salvage a downed military helicopter, or with Teri Cotter, a 15-year-old "Goth" who broadcasts her bedroom life over the Internet, yet keeps private her relationship with the haunted Herdman. Rebus's doubts about the murder-suicide theory are deepened with the appearance of two tight-lipped army investigators, and by the peculiar behavior of James Bell, the boy who was only wounded during Herdman's firing spree and whose politician father hopes to use that tragedy as ammo in the campaign against widespread gun ownership. But the detective inspector's focus on this inquiry is susceptible to diversion, both by an internal police probe into his role in the burning death of a small-time crook who'd been stalking Siobhan, and by the fact that Rebus--who shies away from any family contacts--was related to one of Herdman’s victims.

Now middle-aged and on the downward slope of his pugnacity (the high point may have come in 1997's Black and Blue), Rebus has become the engine of his own obsolescence. Overexposure to criminals has left him better at understanding them than his colleagues, and he only worsens his career standing by fighting other people's battles for them, especially Siobhan, who risks learning too many lessons from her mentor. To watch Rebus subvert police conventions and fend of personal demons (that latter struggle mirrored in A Question of Blood by Herdman's own) is worth the admission to this consistently ambitious series. --J. Kingston Pierce

From Publishers Weekly

The 14th novel to feature the always compelling (and, as his name suggests, perpetually puzzling) John Rebus begins with what seems to be a uniquely American crime: a madman enters a school and starts shooting, killing two students and wounding a third before turning the gun on himself. But we're in Rankin country-a perpetually damp and morally bankrupt Edinburgh-with Rebus and Siobhan Clarke searching for the real story behind what seems an act of sheer madness. This immensely satisfying police procedural has plenty of forensic science, but Rebus knows that "none of it might make them any the wiser about the only question that mattered....The why." Why did Lee Herdman, a drop-out of the U.K. version of the Special Forces, go on a rampage? Why was James Bell, the son of a self-righteous Scottish M.P., merely wounded? And why are two Army investigators sniffing around the case? A subplot has Rebus himself under suspicion of murder: a minor criminal is found dead, burned in an apartment fire, and Rebus shows up with heavily bandaged hands the next morning. The detectives encounter every stratum of contemporary Scottish society, from angry teenage toughs and petty criminals to the privileged and the powerful. It's a complex narrative, perhaps too much so at times, but the plot is less important than Rebus himself, a brilliantly conceived hero who is all too aware of his own shortcomings. In an essentially amoral society, his moral compass is always pointed steadily towards the truth.
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Customer Reviews

Could be read in one afternoon if one had the time.
Jonathan Falk
Good books with good character building and interesting, ongoing plot lines along with the recurrent characters.
Harold Garner
Ian Rankin and his DI Rebus are soo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o good!
Laurie Fletcher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ian Rankin has written his 19th book. This is the 16th novel in the Inspector Rebus series. Inspector John Rebus is a man with a rakish sense of humour and a dry wit. He is a loner. He has a past, and we are given a glimpse every now and then. He is as finely wrought a character as I have seen. He is a man after my own heart. I have always wanted to be a spy in the CIA and this comes close enough.
Rebus is in the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. It appears that Rebus has scalded both hands and infection has set in. Did this happen as he says by putting his hands in scalding water for too long a period of time? It would appear that this might be too coincidental since Fairstone, a man who was stalking Detective Sargeant Siobhan Clarke, has just died in a fire. Siobhan is also wondering if Rebus came to her defense and killed the man.
Detective Clarke is here in hospital to relate to Rebus the horrible events that have just happened in South Queensbury. An ex-SAS or army man had walked into a private school, turned his gun on three young men and then killed himself. What was this slaughter all about? What was the motive, was it revenge?
Rebus is called upon by Detective Inspector Bobby Hogan to come to Queensbury to assist him in the investigation. Rebus is an ex-army man himself and may have insight into the why's and where's.
Siobhan must accompany him since he cannot drive. His hands are bandaged and he is taking medication with his whiskey to stave off the pain.
There is no mystery about whodunit. A creep, a loner, an army veteran who got his kicks out of terrifying the local teenagers in his speedboat. A man gone mad? Were the killings random? Why did this man bypass other rooms and go directly to the student lounge?
Read more ›
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sissalou on February 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
These remarks are directed to REBUS FANS. If you are new to Rebus, it is good to read the Rebus books in order, but if you have never read one, this book is an excellent story and is a great stand alone.
Others already provided story lines, so I won't repeat that here.
What you really want to know is, Is "A Question of Blood" a good DI John Rebus book? The answer is a very definite "Yes."
Rebus fans will welcome this addition to the Rebus series. "A Question of Blood" is Rankin's best one yet.
I thought I figured out the answers, but I was only partially correct. Rankin did an excellent job of twisting up the ending. Each facit of the story could have been developed into a great book itself.
I especially enjoyed Rebus's sense of humor in this book. Rebus was in serious trouble, and his humor wasn't meant to be funny per se, but knowing the character Rebus, his wry remarks were hilarious. I never laugh at books trying to make me laugh, but Rankin knows how to stimulate and activate my sense of humor while keeping up the intensity pressure.
Why I thought this was Rankin's best Rebus: I was able to stay connected to the story and all its sidelines and was able to visualize Rebus and the other characters as real people. I did not want the story to end.
I'm not sure if I really understood the parting shot, or if it was meant to be a mystery in and of itself(?). Good for discussion.
TO IAN RANKIN: Please don't put Rebus out to pasture yet. Let him stay around awhile before you pension or kill him off. I'd like to see him work a few more years before he needs a cane, though (in other words, slow down the aging some). And, I hope that army duo will reappear in another story to cause the hero some grief.
Great story. Great author. Five stars. Do you want to buy this book? Yes.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A former soldier charges into a high school and shoots three students, leaving two for dead, and then kills himself. John Rebus and his partner Siobhan Clarke set out to investigate why this man did what he did, all the while dealing with allegations that Rebus himself has murdered a local thug who had been harassing Clarke. A Question of Blood explores the two mysteries, twines them togehter, all the while telling an excellent, compelling, gripping story. Ian Rankin is a talented writer--the writing is good, the dialog is excellent and the story works, keeping you guessing up until the last pages of the novel. This is the first of Rankin's novels that I have read and it certainly is impressive. Rebus is an complicated and entertaining character--a bit of a cynic, and certainly not one to tow the line. All in all, A Question of Blood is a terrific mystery.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. Blanc on June 17, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The strength of Rankin's works is the realistic outlook of John Rebus and Siobhan Clarke: in a society that operates by mechnical principle, they are purely organic and in fact feral, which is what keeps them devoted to truth (in a world where lies are publically rewarded) and allows them to solve mysteries with several layers of implication. Rankin's layering technique is flawless, and his mysteries relatively realistic and logical, which combined with actors who are likable characterizations of threads of thought required to find a balance between society and soul, make for a powerful and fun read. We the readers feel we could live in this world, and even more, we want to, since these characters fight the same quintessential adaptation-or-conflict seesaw we ourselves must undergo. For those who non-critically enjoy a solid mystery that feels as if it could happen in our newspapers, if not our world, Rankin has produced another treat.
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