I might only be on the second book, but I think a deep rereading of all of the Rebus books was a genius idea. You may not get as much out of it as I do, after all, I am the one reading them. Unless you’re reading along with me. If you are, please let me know. I think I would die of appreciation and awe.
I am taking copious notes as I reread the books, and I have to say, it’s helping me notice the subtle changes in Rebus, his growth as a character. I know I have read an interview with Rankin somewhere in which he expressed a bit of regret of how he shaped Rebus to start, but I think the character’s natural progression is interesting and inspired.
Hide and Seek is the second of the Rebus books, and picks up some time after Knots and Crosses. His ex-wife has moved his daughter Sammy down south to London, Gill Templar has moved on to another man, and Rebus has been promoted at work. Before he was a DS – Detective Sergeant. Now he is a Detective Inspector, or DI. And Rebus likes the little bit of power that comes with his promotion. He happens to catch a case in a rundown estate called Pilmuir. What appears to be a run-of-the-mill overdose has Rebus curious enough to keep digging, especially when they discover the heroin Ronnie took had been laced with rat poison. Rebus’s new supervisor, Farmer Watson, wants him to help represent a new anti-drugs movement since he has “personal” experience. (For those that don’t remember, Rebus’s brother Mickey had been dealing drugs, and has obviously been arrested and tried by the time this book begins.) The anti-drug movement puts Rebus in the midst of Edinburgh’s rich and powerful businessmen. Even though Rebus is supposed to be wrapping up the case, he finds himself more and more desperate to discover what happened to Ronnie and why he knowingly killed himself. When the two worlds of his police work start to collide, Rebus begins to wonder just what everyone is hiding.
There are a few interesting notes to make about this novel. It is the first time that we meet DC Holmes, an officer who becomes more and more important to Rebus throughout the series. A sort of innocent, hard-working man, Holmes finds working for Rebus frustrating, and yet oddly satisfying as well. We also meet Farmer Watson for the first time. Nicknamed “Farmer” because he originally came from Aberdeen (a smaller city in the north of Scotland), Watson is Rebus’s immediate supervisor for several novels. While both of these characters are wary of Rebus for different reasons, they both appear to like him despite his own personal quirks.
At this point in the series, Rebus does not yet feel that he is the only one who can solve the case. Rather, he simply feels that he is the only one that cares enough. He later admits that he can’t stand for anyone to have secrets, and that seems to drive the digging. But what you really begin to understand about Rebus is that he cares. He does not just care about the mystery, about the secrets, but about the people who have been wronged. In this case, it is Ronnie whose death is unnecessary. He digs to vindicate the young man, even if he had been a junkie. Sure, I think Rebus tries harder once he discovers Ronnie’s brother is a police officer, but that simply gives him another reason to worry about what happened to the boy.
In fact, the entire drive behind this story is personal. Rebus cares because it feels personal to him. He is picked for the drugs campaign because of personal experience. He was promoted because of a personal case. And he wants to delve down into the depths of Edinburgh’s elite because it has quickly become all too personal for him. When Rebus is put on suspension as a result of a complaint (the first time this happens in the series), he feels the bad guy behind everything wants him out of it because he has gotten too close. Rebus makes everything personal, and holds it all in.
At the beginning of the book, we see Rebus trying to forget work, even if it will not leave him alone. But by the end, Holmes has become more comfortable in Rebus’s flat, Rebus confronts one of the guilty there, and he has brought evidence home with him. Hide and Seek really seems to push Rebus over the edge into the obsessive. He cannot let things lie, as many people would prefer, and spends his nights (at the end of the novel) staring at a photograph that would prove guilt for many of Edinburgh’s powerful.
Hide and Seek really dwells on whether or not certain people should be above the law. Rebus obviously thinks that no one should be able to circumvent justice, no matter who they are. Even though Rebus’s investigation leads him right into the heart of Edinburgh’s finest, he hates it when some of them get away. Ends are neatly tied up, leaving Rebus and Holmes the only ones who know the full extent of the case. They get no satisfaction in justice. It foreshadows some of the happenings in other Rebus novels, things that will continue to haunt Rebus throughout fifteen books.
It really is amazing to watch Rebus evolve naturally, and without hesitation. Rankin may or may not have done it consciously, but many of Rebus’s traits are shifting as he becomes a better detective, as he sees more of the darkness of his world, and as he begins to delve deeper into some cases.
While Hide and Seek may not be considered the best Rebus book, it is an important stepping stone in understanding Rebus himself in some of the later masterpieces.