Fantasy Mystery Romance Comics Non-Fiction

The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Beat Goes On: The Complete Rebus Stories (2015) Ian Rankin

the-beat-goes-on‘Dead and Buried’ (2013)
‘Playback,’ ‘The Dean Curse,’ ‘Being Frank,’ ‘Concrete Evidence,’ ‘Seeing Things,’ ‘A Good Hanging,’ ‘Tit for Tat,’ ‘Not Provan,’ ‘Sunday,’ ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ ‘The Gentleman’s Club,’ ‘Monstrous Trumpet’ from A Good Hanging (And Other Short Stories, Featuring Inspector Rebus) (2002)
‘My Shopping Day’ (1997) Herbert in Motion and Other Stories in Great Britain
‘Facing the Music’ (1992) Beggar’s Banquet
‘Trip Trap’ (1992) 1st Culprit by Chatto & Windus
‘Talk Show’ (1991) Winter’s Crimes 23
‘Castle Dangerous’ (1993) Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, October 1993
‘In the Frame’ (1992) Winter’s Crimes 24
‘Window of Opportunity’ (1995) Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 1995
‘No Sanity Clause’ (2000) Daily Telegraph, December 2000
‘Death Is Not the End’ (1998)
‘Tell Me Who to Kill’ (2003) Mysterious Pleasures
‘Saint Nicked’ (2002) Radio Times
‘Atonement’ (2005)
‘Not Just Another Saturday’ (2005)
‘Penalty Claus’ (2010) Mail on Sunday
‘The Passenger’ (2014)
‘A Three-Pint Problem’ (2014)
‘The Very Last Drop’ (2010) (written to help the work of Royal Blind)
‘Cinders’ (2014) Mail on Sunday

I read all the Rebus stories that were out several years ago and loved them. Then a year or so ago I tried to go back and read the first novel and got hung-up. Then I remembered the same thing happened the first time I tried to read the first novel, so when I came across the complete collection of short stories I snapped it up and soon started reading.

If you’d like to see if the Rebus books are for you, this is an excellent introduction.

‘Dead and Buried’

A criminal–one of the last hung–is being dug up so the grounds of the old prison can be used for something else. Rebus’ mentor attends the exhumation, and Rebus is along, but has questions his mentor won’t answer.

‘(B)eing a cop isn’t just about getting to the truth– it’s knowing what to do with it when you arrive. Making judgement calls, some of them at a moment’s notice.’


A young woman is found killed after her boyfriend calls emergency services claiming to have killed her. This story is very much a product of its time, and not something could happen now. Doesn’t mean it isn’t good though.

Rebus nodded and turned to MacManus, whose face had a sickly grey tinge to it. ‘Your first time?’ Rebus asked. The constable nodded slowly. ‘Never mind,’ Rebus continued. ‘You never get used to it anyway. Come on.’

‘The Dean Curse’

The car of a retired military man is blown up pulling away from the curb, but the owner isn’t behind the wheel.

‘Fair enough,’ he said quietly. ‘I’ll keep out of your hair, Mr Matthews, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m leaving the barber’s.’

(H)ow did you make safe a man like that? The Army had designed a weapon and that weapon had become misadjusted, its sights all wrong. You could dismantle a weapon. You could dismantle a man, too, come to that. But each and every piece was still as lethal as the whole.

‘Being Frank’

I quite liked this story. Frank is a Tramp–a man who wanders. He is somewhat paranoid, but not dangerous. When he overhears a strange conversation, he has to decide who to tell.

(A) person– a person in authority– would read that name from the piece of paper they were holding and then look up at Frank, not quite in disbelief, but certainly wondering how he’d come so low.

He couldn’t tell them that he was climbing higher all the time. That he preferred to live out of doors. That his face was weather-beaten, not dirty. That a plastic bag was a convenient place to keep his possessions.

‘Concrete Evidence’

I actually remembered bits of this story, from before. A skeleton is discovered when a building is being remodeled.

‘In a recession,’ he explained, lighting an overlong cigar, ‘you trim your workforce pronto. … Then, when the recession’s over for another few years, you dust yourself off and go touting for business again, re-hiring the men you laid off.

‘Seeing Things’

A man in white–or perhaps a ghost–is seen beside a tree near a church. When wet blood is discovered on the tree, debate breaks out as to whether it is a crime or a miracle.

A faith should be just that, Rebus reasoned. And if you held belief, what need had you of miracles?

‘Sorry you didn’t get your miracle,’ he said.

Father Byrne’s smile broadened. ‘Miracles happen every day, Inspector. I don’t need to have them invented for me.’

‘A Good Hanging’

A young actor is found hanging from a set piece–a scaffold, conveniently enough. The play has been tanking, but this suicide isn’t all it seems.

(T)hey probably couldn’t charge Peter Collins even if they’d wanted to, since there was no reason for their being in his room. We were looking for someone else’s suicide note probably wouldn’t impress a latter-day jury.

‘Tit for Tat’

Arson injures a young man, but he seems harmless enough, so why would someone want to scare–or kill him?

Like all hobbyists, Hendry was keen to have others share his enthusiasm. Like all anti-hobbyists, Rebus would yawn with more irony than was necessary.

‘Not Provan’

A young criminal is on trial, and it looks like he’s finally going to be put off the streets for awhile, until it starts to look as if the timing is off for the crime of which he’s been accused.

There were birds on the window sill, chirping, wanting some crumbled up crusts of bread, but he had no bread worth the name left in the flat; just fresh rolls, too soft to be thrown out. Ach, he’d never eat six rolls though, would he? One or two would go stale and then he’d give them to the birds. So why not give them some in advance, while the rolls are soft and sweet?


It’s a normal Sunday; Rebus wakes up with a hangover and goes about his business.

‘Auld Lang Syne’

New Years’s Eve brings the police out for a joint operation in the hopes of stopping a major drug deal.

That was from Exodus. A dangerous book, the Bible. It could be made to say anything, its meaning in the mind of the beholder.

In fifteen minutes or so, they would cease to be revellers and would be transformed into troublemakers.

‘The Gentleman’s Club’

A teen is found dead, but something bothers Rebus about her suicide. This story is disturbing and distressing.

It was the sort of school fathers sent their daughters to so that they might learn the arts of femininity and ruthlessness.

‘Monstrous Trumpet’

‘The last bag is mine,’ she said haughtily, her vowels pure Morningside. Perhaps she’d been Jean Brodie’s elocution mistress; but no, she wasn’t even quite Maggie Smith’s age, though to Rebus there were similarities enough between the two women.

Cluzeau seemed quietly cowed by this grand example of Scottish womanhood. He stood at a distance, giving her vowels the necessary room in which to perform.

‘My Shopping Day’

This story is from the criminal’s point of view. Not especially a favorite, although I liked that he tried something different.

‘Facing the Music’

I really like this one. Brian Holmes has always complained that Rebus keeps him in the dark, so we’re seeing this crime and its results from someone else’s point of view.

Rebus’s car was a must for undercover work, the only problem coming if the villains decided to make a run for it. Then, even the most elderly and infirm could outpace it.

‘Trip Trap’

This is a sadder story. It’s good, but it’s also sad.

(T)he headache was reasserting itself. That’ll teach you, Rebus, it was saying. That’ll teach you for taking a sip of whisky. That’ll teach you for making cheap jokes to yourself. Take all the aspirin you like. They’ll dissolve your stomach lining before they dissolve me.

‘Talk Show’

A night-time radio talk show host has received threatening calls, so the host calls in the police, in case the caller is as threatening as he sounds.

‘So, Inspector, what do you think?’ He sipped the lukewarm liquid.

‘I think,’ he said, ‘you’ve got an anonymous phone-caller.’

She raised her cup, as though to toast him. ‘God bless CID,’ she said. ‘What would we do without you?’

‘Castle Dangerous’

This is another sad story. A man is found dead, unexpectedly, and it’s not quite clear why.

Less than an hour later, Rebus was addressing a packed, seated crowd of forty American tourists in a room off the large dining-room. He had barely given them his rank when a hand shot into the air.

‘Er… yes?’

The elderly woman stood up. ‘Sir, are you from Scotland Yard?’

Rebus shook his head. ‘Scotland Yard’s in London.’ She was still standing.

‘Now why is that?’ she asked.

Rebus had no answer to this, but someone else suggested that it was because that part of London was called Scotland Yard. Yes, but why was it called Scotland Yard in the first place? The woman had sat down now, but all around her was discussion and conjecture.

‘In the Frame’

A man receives blackmail notes, but to the best of his knowledge has never done anything worthy of blackmail.

Nor does he have a wife to whom incriminating photographs could be shown as the letter threatens. I enjoyed this one a good deal.

Rebus liked having Siobhan in on these interviews. She made people nervous. Hard men, brutal men, they would swear and fume for a moment before remembering that a young woman was present. A lot of the time, she discomfited them, and that gave Rebus an extra edge.

‘Window of Opportunity’

I wonder if this story was based in any way upon Christopher Daniel Gay, who is a fascinating man.

‘No Sanity Clause’

This is another Christmas story (there are several) and not a particular favorite, although I did feel a little sorry for the criminal.

He never borrowed books, because he was afraid they’d have him on some blacklist: convicted housebreaker and petty thief, not to be trusted with loan material.

‘Death Is Not the End’

This is a slightly longer story; a young man has disappeared, his parents were school chums of Rebus’ so they ask him to see if he can find out anything for them. But there is another thread at the casino, and a croupier who has been an informer for Rebus.

(A)t last Rebus had the right tape and had watched it at home half a dozen times before deciding he could use someone who knew what he was doing… and a video machine that would freeze-frame without the screen looking like a technical problem.

He had half a dozen tickets lying around, any one of which could be his fortune. He quite liked the notion that he might have won a million and not know it; preferred it, in fact, to the idea of actually having the million in his bank account. What would he do with a million pounds? Same as he’d do with fifty thou– self-destruct.

Only faster.

‘Tell Me Who to Kill’

This was a somewhat distressing story.

(A)fter twenty rings he gave up. No one was about to answer. He decided to send a text instead, but couldn’t think what words to use.
Hello, are you a hired killer?
Who do you think I want you to kill?
Please hand yourself in to your nearest police station

‘Saint Nicked’

Another short Christmas story.


A man who had been a mentor of sorts to Rebus notices that there seem to have been a large number of deaths in his retirement/nursing home.

I liked this one, since we get to see Rebus not only being unusually kind, but also how things sometimes fall together.

‘Not Just Another Saturday’

A short-short. Rebus heads into town in the midst of the protest. It’s a teeny peek into Rebus’ mind.

‘I marched in the sixties.’

‘But not now?’ Rebus just shrugged. It was different then, he wanted to say. But he wasn’t sure that was true. He was different then; no doubt about that.

‘Penalty Claus’

Another Christmas story (obviously), with intertwined cases: a man who escaped from jail, a sneak thief, and a couple of shoplifters.

‘What if he’s off to see his dad?’

‘He’s not. I think that’s what’s got his mum narked.’

‘The Passenger’

This was another very interesting story. It’s not especially clear who the criminal is at the end, but I don’t have sympathy for the person who *I* think did wrong.

‘Doesn’t take that long to throttle someone.’

‘Well,’ Clarke replied, as though she’d given it some thought, ‘first you’ve got to get good and angry.

‘A Three-Pint Problem’

A man goes missing and it’s assumed he’s run off, although it’s not quite clear why.

‘The Very Last Drop’

The beer was free to employees back then, and no limits to how much you had.

That is TOTALLY true! My dad worked at a Baltimore brewery summers when he was younger, and although by then there were limits, there weren’t THAT many limits.

I quite liked this story, and wish it had been the closing story rather than the following.


Buttons was notoriously lazy, and had almost come to blows with both director and producer while attempting to cut back on his lines so he wouldn’t have to remember them.

If you would like an introduction to Rebus, this is a very good places to start. You get an idea of his character, his humor, and the mysteries.
Rating: 9/10

Published by Little, Brown and Company


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