Excerpt from A Question of Blood by Ian Rankin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Question of Blood

An Inspector Rebus Novel

By Ian Rankin

A Question of Blood
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2004,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2005,
    544 pages.

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The constabulary had reacted by swooping down one night, netting Jack Bell MSP amongst others.

But Bell had protested his innocence, putting his appearance in the area down to "fact-finding." His wife had backed him up, as had most of his party, with the result that Police HQ had decided to let the matter drop. But not before the media had had their fun at Bell's expense, leading the MSP to accuse the police of being in cahoots with the "gutter press," of hounding him because of who he was. The resentment had festered, leading Bell to make several speeches in Parliament, usually remarking on inefficiency within the force and the need for change. All of which, it was agreed, might lead to a problem.

Because Bell had been arrested by a team from Leith, the very station now in charge of the shooting at Port Edgar Academy. And South Queensferry just happened to be his constituency . . . As if this wasn't enough to get tongues wagging, one of the murder victims happened to be the son of a judge.

All of which led to the second reason why everyone at St. Leonard's was talking. They felt left out. Being a Leith call rather than St. Leonard's, there was nothing to do but sit and watch, hoping there might be a need to draft officers in. But Siobhan doubted it. The case was cut and dried, the gunman's body laid out in the morgue, his two victims somewhere nearby. It wouldn't be enough to deflect Gill Templer from - "DS Clarke to the chief super's office!" The squawked imperative came from a loudspeaker attached to the ceiling above her head.

The uniforms in the cafeteria turned to look at her. She tried to appear calm, sipping from her can. Her insides suddenly felt cold-nothing to do with the chilled drink.

"DS Clarke to the chief super!" The glass door was ahead of her. Beyond it, her car sat obediently in its space. What would Rebus do, run or hide? She had to smile as the answer came to her. He'd do neither. He'd probably take the stairs two at a time on his way to the boss's office, knowing he was right, and she, whatever she had to say to him, was wrong. Siobhan dumped her can and headed for the stairs.

"You know why I wanted you?" Detective Chief Superintendent Gill Templer asked. She was seated behind the desk in her office, surrounded by the day's paperwork. As DCS, Templer was responsible for the whole of B Division, composed of three stations on the city's south side, with St. Leonard's as Divisional HQ. It wasn't as hefty a workload as some, though things would change when the Scottish Parliament finally moved into its purpose-built complex at the foot of Holyrood Road. Templer already seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time in meetings focused on the needs of the Parliament. Siobhan knew that she hated this. No police officer joined the force because of a fondness for paperwork. Yet more and more, budgeting and finances were the topics of the day. Officers who could run their cases or their stations on-budget were prized specimens; those who could actually underspend were seen as altogether rarer and more rarefied beings.

Siobhan could see that it was taking its toll on Gill Templer. She always had a slightly harried look about her. Glints of gray were showing in her hair. She either hadn't noticed or couldn't find time these days to get them done. Time was defeating her. It made Siobhan wonder what price she would be asked to pay for climbing the career ladder. Always supposing that ladder was still visible after today. Templer seemed preoccupied with a search of her desk drawer. Eventually she gave up and closed it, focusing her attention on Siobhan. As she did so, she lowered her chin. This had the effect of hardening her gaze but also, Siobhan couldn't help noticing, of accentuating the folds of skin around the throat and mouth. When Templer moved in her chair, her suit jacket creased below the breasts, showing that she'd gained some weight. Either too much fast food or too many dinners at evening functions with the brass. Siobhan, who'd been in the gym at six o'clock that morning, sat a little more upright in her own chair, and lifted her head a little higher.

Copyright © 2003 by Ian Rankin.  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.

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