Rankin spent two books building a semblance of a pattern, and with Tooth and Nail throws it out a bit. And yet, this is the book where we really start to see Rebus for what he will become. Rebus gets a call to go down South, which for a Scot, is not the most pleasant idea. Wanted in London to help with a serial murderer nicknamed the Wolfman, Rebus is convinced they’ll see him for the sham he is within days. Except when he arrives in Kings Cross, he hears of the most recent murder and goes straight to the scene of crime. Working with DI Flight, Rebus becomes invested in the case as if he had been there all along, and some of his ideas lead to major breaks. While in London, Rebus reconnects with his now 16 year-old daughter (meaning we’re about 4-5 years after Knots and Crosses), his ex-wife, and an attractive psychologist determined to help catch the Wolfman.
There are so many different things to discuss about this book, I’m not quite where to start. We have again an obsession with Jekyll and Hyde. This time, the Wolfman embodies Hyde. Based on the bite marks he leaves on his victims (post-mortem), a dental pathologist creates a possible mold of the Wolfman’s head. Upon seeing it, DI Flight notes that it looked just as he imagined Hyde. The face is deformed, because the lower jaw was smaller, more feminine than the upper. In Knots and Crosses, Rebus sort of imagines himself as Jekyll and Hyde, and the reader is led to see him as Jekyll and Reeve as Hyde – they began the same but became two different men. With Hide and Seek, the main villain calls himself Hyde, the dual identity claimed and wanted. And here, in Tooth and Nail, the criminal is given the identity by the police, but also given the Jekyll name because a murderer is not born, but rather prepares himself for the path of death. One character also notes that the Wolfman likes being the two different people, perhaps reveling in his split personality. You could say that Rankin has a bit of a predilection for Stevenson’s seminal work.
One thing that I thought was a little different in Rebus’s character was his lack of obsession. By the end of Hide and Seek, he had seemed to go over the edge, and yet, here he feels a little less so. Perhaps that is only because he is a new location, and time has reasonably passed since he solved the fight club case. He does seem to let the case go at times, enjoying a bit of a romance with Lisa Frazer (the aforementioned psychologist), and slightly obsessed with his daughter’s boyfriend. Actually, for Rebus, he is pretty nonchalant about Wolfman until midway through the book. Of course, this could be due to his belief that he would be of no help from the beginning.
However, when Rebus does make a few breaks in the case, he begins to go Rogue Rebus. For those that have read the series, he does this a lot. This is really the first time that he does things because he believes they’re a better idea, though. Flight calls Rebus out for a couple of renegade moves, points out that he could work as a team and still get the job done. While Rebus is embarrassed at this point, I think he also begins to see how his actions are perceived and starts to believe in his own abilities a lot more than in the previous two novels.
I will make one complaint about this book. The voices were a bit hard to follow. In Hide and Seek, Rankin switched between Holmes and Rebus (mainly), and the shifts were always easy to follow. But Tooth and Nail was much less clear-cut. There were a few times I had to reread to see whose head I was in and from what viewpoint I was examining things. I honestly prefer only one or two characters to narrate the story, but we jumped from so many different heads it became obnoxious. I will say that the Wolfman’s head was the best bit – very intriguing to get some view of what made him tick.
For Rebus enthusiasts, we hear of Morris “Big Ger” Cafferty for the first time. It is mostly a throw-away – Rebus merely has to hightail it to Glasgow to testify against him – but Cafferty becomes a major figure in the Rebus series. It is very interesting to take note of when and how he is introduced.
There are a lot of great things about Tooth and Nail, but honestly, it is not my favorite Rebus. Perhaps it is because Rebus is out of the Edinburgh element, or simply because it is only one of the first novels. Still, it kept me reading late into the night, and I’ve read it before. Still a great crime fiction read.