The first of the Rebus' novels has the detective on the trail of a serial killer that targets young children. Rankin's plot has a few too many coincidences, but its a first novel, so no big sin. The villian is a cliche not worthy of an A-Team rerun, but the atmosphere Rankin creates keeps you from putting the book down unfinished.
While more fun in later novels, Rebus is interesting enough in this book to bring you back for more. Rankin's real strengths in this novel are his descriptions of Edinburgh and the supporting character narratives--Rebus' brother Michael, Jack Morton, Gill Templar, and Jim Stevens--all are interesting, and while the novel is a bit uneven, there are spots when writing from these characters point of view the book shines (particularly the last few sentences of the epilogue, which spur the imagination on to the possibilities of a better novel never written). Not the best of the Rebus' books, but a decent, quick, read.
Subgenre: Police Procedural
Cliches: Detective with alcohol issues, detective known mainly or solely by his last name, divorced, awkward relations with child, pesky/immoral journalist on trail of story and/or detective, detective has trauma in past (of the caused amnesia variety), family issues, serial killer with link to detective, serial killer targeting kids, detective has partner with drinking problem, detective sleeping with a colleague, detective is one night stand type--but sensitive, detective is big reader of the classics, detective listens to jazz and/or classical music.
Hey, I Guess this is Different: Late father and brother both made living as hypnotists.
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Will Make You Seem Smart, Hip, or Sensitive at Parties: Probably Not
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes
If you like, try this better book: Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni.