Last Updated 4 months ago.U.K. loves his fictional cops. In Scotland, John Rebus is one of the most popular with more than 20 books and 50 stories. And it’s better to read everything in order!
Who is Inspector John Rebus?
Detective Inspector John Rebus was created by the Scottish writer Ian Rankin. He is a cop, working from the St Leonard’s Police Station in Edinburgh. Obviously, He is the main protagonist of a long series of crime mystery books since the end of the ’80s. In the UK, this series is one of the biggest of the genre.
Rebus works with his protege is DS Siobhan Clarke to solve mysteries in Scotland. And that’s mostly all you need to know to start reading. Unlike a lot of series of this kind, it’s rewarding to read it in order because of the recurring elements. You can still read the books how you want, but you’ll really enjoy everything when you know the history of the characters and their world.
Inspector Rebus Books in Order:
Only The Novels
It’s a bit too big and confusing to mix up everything. If you want the ultimate reading order, it’s at the end of this article. Let’s begin with just the novels.
- Knots and Crosses – His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders … and Inspector John Rebus is tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood.
- Hide & Seek – In a crumbling housing development, a junkie lies dead of an overdose, his bruised body surrounded by signs of Satanic worship. Inspector Rebus could call the death an accident – but won’t.
- Tooth & Nail – previously published as Wolfman. John Rebus has been sent to help London police catch a serial killer with a gruesome M.O. Teamed with a London cop he wants to trust but can’t, Rebus lets a psychologist into the case develops a bizarre portrait of a killer who leaves bite marks and tears on each victim’s body.
- Strip Jack – Gregor Jack is a highly respected member of Parliament, with a beautiful wife – and a closet bursting with skeletons. When he’s caught in a police raid on an Edinburgh brothel, his house of cards begins to topple. John Rebus smells a set-up. When Jack’s wife Elizabeth disappears, Rebus uncovers a full-house of orgies, drunken parties, an incestuous ‘Pack’ of deceitful chums … and ultimately Elizabeth’s badly beaten body.
- The Black Book – Five years ago, a mysterious fire burned Edinburgh’s seed Central Hotel to ashes. Long-forgotten and unsolved, the case reappears when a charred body is found amongst the ruins. Inspector John Rebus knows that part of the answer lies somewhere in a cryptic black notebook.
- Mortal Causes – In the midst of a nationalist festival, Inspector John Rebus is on the murder case of a young man left hanging in a spot where his screams would never be heard.
- Let it Bleed – Two drop-out kids dive off the towering Forth Road Bridge. A civic office is spattered by a grisly gun-blast. Two suicides and a murder that just don’t add up, unless John Rebus can crunch the numbers.
- Black & Blue – ‘Bible John’ terrorized Glasgow in the sixties and seventies, murdering three women he met in a local ballroom – and he was never caught. Now a copycat is at work. Nicknamed ‘Bible Johnny’ by the media, he is a new menace with violent ambitions.
- The Hanging Garden – When Rebus rescues a young Bosnian girl forced into prostitution, he breaks a policeman’s golden rule to never get personally involved in a case. Add to that the hunt for an elderly Nazi accused of slaughtering an entire French village, and Rebus wonders just how evil humans can be.
- Dead Souls – A colleague’s suicide. Pedophiles. A missing child. A serial killer. Driven by instinct and experience, John Rebus searches for connections, against official skepticism.
- Set in Darkness – On the eve of the first Scottish parliament in three hundred years, Edinburgh is a city rife with political passions and expectations. Queensbury House, the home of Scotland’s new rulers, falls in the middle of John Rebus’ turf, keeping him busy with ceremonial tasks. That quickly changes when a long-dead body is discovered, a homeless man throws himself off a bridge and a politician is found murdered.
- The Falls – When a young woman goes missing near his native Edinburgh, Scotland, Rebus finds himself just one small cog in the huge wheel of an inquiry set in motion by her powerfully rich father.
- Resurrection Men – Inspector John Rebus joins a covert mission to gain evidence of a drug heist orchestrated by three of his classmates. But the group has been assigned an unsolved murder that may have resulted from Rebus’s own mistake. Now Rebus can’t determine if he’s been set up for a fall or if his disgraced classmates are as ruthless as he suspects.
- A Question of Blood – When a former soldier and recluse murders two 17-year-old students at a posh Edinburgh boarding school, Inspector John Rebus immediately suspects there is more to the case than meets the eye.
- Fleshmarket Alley – An illegal immigrant is found murdered in an Edinburgh housing scheme. Rebus is drawn into the case, but has other problems: his old police station has closed for business, and his masters would rather he retire than stick around. But as Rebus investigates, he must deal with the sleazy Edinburgh underworld, and maybe even fall in love.
- The Naming of the Dead – During a preconference dinner at Edinburgh Castle, a delegate has fallen to his death. While the government and secret services attempt to hush the whole thing up, Rebus knows he has only seventy-two hours to find the answers.
- Exit Music – A dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong. And as Rebus’s investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.
- Standing in Another Man’s Grave – For more than ten years, Nina Hazlitt feared the worst about her daughter’s disappearance. The police investigation ground to a halt long ago, and her pleas to the cold case department go unheard. Until she meets the newest member of the team: former Detective John Rebus.
- Saints of the Shadow Bible – Rebus is back on the force, albeit with a demotion and a chip on his shoulder. He is investigating a car accident when news arrives that a case from 30 years ago is being reopened. Rebus’s team from those days is suspected of helping a murderer escape justice to further their own ends.
- Even Dogs in the Wild – Newly minted civilian John Rebus is feeling restless. Being a cop is in his blood and he’s failing miserably at retirement. So when Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox ask for his help, Rebus doesn’t need long to consider his options.
- Rather be the Devil – As he settles into an uneasy retirement, Rebus has given up his favorite vices. There’s just one habit he can’t shake: he can’t let go of an unsolved case. It’s the only pastime he has left and up until now, it’s the only one that wasn’t threatening to kill him. But when Rebus starts reexamining the facts behind the long-ago murder of a glamorous woman at a luxurious hotel the past comes roaring back to life with a vengeance.
- In a House of Lies – Rebus’ retirement is disrupted once again when skeletal remains are identified as a private investigator who went missing over a decade earlier. The remains, found in a rusted car in the East Lothian woods, not far from Edinburgh, quickly turn into a cold case murder investigation. Rebus’ old friend, Siobhan Clarke is assigned to the case, but neither of them could have predicted what buried secrets the investigation will uncover.
- A Song for the Dark Times – When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it’s not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst – and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect. He wasn’t the best father – the job always came first – but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective?
With Novellas and Short Stories
All the short stories and novellas are collected in The Beat Goes On.
- ‘Dead and Buried’
- Knots and Crosses
- Hide & Seek
- Tooth & Nail
- ‘The Dean Curse’
- ‘Being Frank’
- ‘Concrete Evidence’
- ‘Seeing Things’
- ‘A Good Hanging’
- ‘Tit for Tat’
- ‘Not Provan’
- ‘Auld Lang Syne’
- ‘The Gentlemen’s Club’
- ‘Monstrous Trumpet’
- Strip Jack
- ‘Talk Show’
- ‘Trip Trap’
- The Black Book
- ‘Castle Dangerous’
- Mortal Causes
- ‘In the Frame’
- ‘Facing the Music’
- Let it Bleed
- Black & Blue
- The Hanging Garden
- ‘Window of Opportunity’
- ‘Death is Not the End’
- Dead Souls
- ‘No Sanity Clause’
- Set in Darkness
- ‘Tell Me Who to Kill’
- The Falls
- Resurrection Men
- A Question of Blood
- ‘Saint Nicked’
- Fleshmarket Alley
- ‘Not Just Another Saturday’
- ‘Penalty Claus’
- ‘The Passenger’
- ‘A Three-Pint Problem’
- ‘The Very Last Drop’
- The Naming of the Dead
- Exit Music
- Standing in Another Man’s Grave
- Saints of the Shadow Bible
- ‘In the Nick of Time: John Rebus vs. Roy Grace’
- Even Dogs in the Wild
- Rather be the Devil
- In a House of Lies
- A Song for the Dark Times
- ‘Long Shadows’ – a 2018 play written by Ian Rankin and Rona Munro.