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The Black Book

(Inspector Rebus #5)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  9,400 ratings  ·  429 reviews
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--with a bullet in its head--is found amongst the ruins. Inspector John Rebus knows that his superiors would rather he let sleeping dogs lie. He knows that part of the answer lies somewhere in a cryptic black notebook. And he
Paperback, Later print of 9780752883571, 340 pages
Published 2011 by Orion (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Andrew Smith
Inspector John Rebus is distracted. His brother, Michael, has turned up, fresh from a spell ‘at Her Majesty’s pleasure’, courtesy of a drug dealing charge Rebus himself helped to nail down. Michael’s looking for a place to kip down for a spell and he’s hoping his brother can help him out. But there’s more. Michael is soon found hanging by his feet from the Forth Bridge and a friend and colleague of Rebus is badly beaten, reason and perpetrator unknown. All this distraction means that Rebus is ...more
I was rooting around a sale bin in a second hand bookstore & looky looky what I found. I've been following this series for years but somehow missed this one. Made my day.
This is an old one & there's only about a kabillion reviews already so I won't bother, I'm sure it's all been said. But it reminded me of one of the things I love about reading.....when you come across a series that for whatever reason, you become attached to & read just for the pure pleasure of spending time with
Rachel Hall
This is the fifth novel in the Inspector John Rebus series and after the somewhat dry subject matter dealt with in Strip Jack, this is a return to form in terms of providing both more action and plenty of the trademark Rebus wit. Significantly, it is at this juncture in the series that Ian Rankin first began to visualise his Rebus novels as a series, transition location-wise from a 'fictional' Edinburgh to the city authentic and introduced the perfect foil for Rebus in DC Siobhan Clarke. The ...more
Alan Cotterell
Not sure what happened, this started out well. But then either I lost the plot, or storyline went off on a strange tangent. I usually enjoy Rebus books, but not this one. Let's hope the next one is back up to standard.
The Black Book by Ian Rankin.

The main theme or focus for Rebus is the burning down of the Central Hotel 5 years ago. A body, or what was left of a body, was found in the smoldering ashes. That body also had a bullet lodged in it's head. Rebus is bound and determined to find answers to this unsolved murder. That's when his problems begin. No one wants him to find any answers to that murder including the police. Well that's ok since nobody stops Rebus for long.

The key to solving this mystery is a
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a number of Rebus books over the years and always enjoyed them. Rebus is a great character and Rankin is a great writer. These days I'm picking up odd ones from charity shops from the early days and I've not read a bad one yet. This features Ger Cafferty as a character for the first time properly as well as one or two others who get to stick around for quite some time. It's a decent crime read. I guess I was surprised to find just how well this early one stacked up against both ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read several of the Rebus series now and plan to work my way progressively through all of them. This one was particularly good in that Rebus seems to be mostly in control of things, his boss is supporting him and his love life is at a standstill. So much more time is spent on actual police work and solving crimes, always a good thing I think in a crime novel. I found this particular book a great way to spend time on a long plane flight and I look forward to reading the next one soon.
Jun 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crimes-mystery

Expected better from Rankin in this one.
It wasn't as noir as the previous books
I'll read the 6th book in the series and see if it's any better

It's my least fav Rebus so far
Alexander Inglis
Ian Rankin's The Black Book is the 5th of his Inspector John Rebus series set in Edinburgh; this is the first of his novels I've read. Although in his early thirties when he wrote this tale, Rankin shapes Rebus with a world-weary cast, delivering a startlingly interior view of his middle-aged detective. Rebus isn't a 20s-something swashbuckler; nor has his passion died -- instead, it smoulders, burning red hot when correctly fanned, flicking encrusted ash skyward contemptuously.

In this outing,
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Siobhan Clarke was a new partner for Rebus in this book, working with Rebus on Unsolved Crimes; brother of Rebus gets out of prison and needs place to sleep so he joins the crowd of college students renting from Rebus; Big Ger Cafferty is not at all likable in this earlier book, dramatically changing my view of that character. While I enjoy the series very much as it matured I never made the effort to start from book one to read in order. Had I done so I may have dropped it.

I should add this
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intricately woven, tense noir thriller and the best I have read thus far. Incredible storytelling.
Paul Darcy
Jan 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
By this point, John Rebus is becoming familiar to me. He is crusty, crafty and will stoop to conquer any “bad” guys that happen to cross him.

In this, the fifth full Rebus mystery novel, we do find out what happens with his current love affair (I was itching to know after the end of book four) and how he treats his fellow workers and friends - er, scratch that last bit. Rebus has no real friends.

Inspector Rebus reminds me of a mix of Dr. House, Black Adder and perhaps a touch of “everyman” who
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am late to the John Rebus series and have started at the beginning. Now I have read to number 5 in the series. So many people have reviewed this book, that I am just going to make a few comments about it.

First of all, there were a lot of main and secondary characters. Would cause me to pause when a name would turn up quite a few pages after I last read it. I would have to think "Now who is this." I did figure it out. Next the plot was quite complex and there were secondary plot lines going.
4 Stars

In the ongoing saga that is John Rebus's life; he must contend with a 5 year old murder, his ex-con brother returning to town, having a break-up with his girl, and trying to head an undercover sting.... oh yeah, a child molester is on parole and living across the street from a primary school.

Aahhhh, a day in the life of John Rebus.

Things wrap up nicely, but not neatly. There is always a line to be crossed or a cliff edge to step to with Rebus. Still loving this series.
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
Best Rebus yet. The more I read him the better I like him; not in spite of his flaws but because of them. My enjoyment of this book was helped by my currently being in Scotland and having just visited Edinburgh which, as in 3 of the previous books, figures prominently in the storyline. However, in addition to the picturesque unfolding of Edinburgh's multi-faceted personality and the fabulously flawed character of John Rebus, this novel boasts an excellent plot and a most challenging and ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Classic Serial:
Ian Rankin's maverick detective, Inspector Rebus, investigates an unsolved murder, with the help of a notebook full of coded clues.
In this mystery about Scottish police detective John Rebus, Ian Rankin shows all his characteristic deftness. (Well, the last paragraph was atypically sweet, kind of a wrong note, but it was only one paragraph.) Rebus follows his own rules and accepts the punishments that inevitably follow.

After his detective sergeant gets hit over the head in a parking lot behind an Elvis-themed restaurant and lands in the hospital, the victim's estranged girlfriend tells Rebus about a black book that (in
Michele Weiner
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK. Now we're getting someplace. Much better. My editions are old, so contain introductions by Rankin in which he explains what he was doing and/or thinking about when he wrote the book in question. Strip Jack, for example, was written in the US just after his first son was born. For the Black Book, he's back at the French farmhouse, but he's decided to dump some of the settings and characters and become more real about police procedures in Edinburgh. There is more humor, I think, and a little ...more
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I confirm, I am obsessed with Rebus now. It's nice to get into a series late and know there's another 15 or so books to get stuck into.
Elizabeth Allen
A good read overall. The plot was complicated. There were numerous issues taking Rebus's attention. There certainly was a sense of menace. Really liked Rebus himself.
Sue Dix
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This, the 5th book in the Inspector Rebus mysteries, is the best one yet! It has everything: really scary bad guys, a seemingly unsolvable crime, bad things happening to good guys, from all sides, characters’ flaws that are just enough to highlight their humanity, a satisfying, though not completely resolved, ending. Time to get more books in this series.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
As interesting and well-written as the mystery in this novel was, as I think about the book, I have a hard time thinking about it -- the non-case material dominates the book, and seems more important for the series as a whole. Which is kind of a shame -- there's a lot to be mined in this case, and we didn't get enough of it. A famous -- and infamous -- local hotel burns down, and one body is recovered. This man didn't die in the fire, but
Sean McCann
There are signs of this series growing in this fifth of the Rebus novels, but some old failings remain, particularly the feeling that IR is sitting there laughing at his own jokes; these are rather too frequent but I guess this is IR stamping his own particular style on the crime novel, chucking in a bit of light relief. For some readers, as other reviews demonstrate, this mix of dark and light doesn't work for everyone.

For once the prologue felt weak, and the transition to the main narrative
I had read my last Ian Rankin book a long time ago, and as far as I remember that one was a collection of short stories, which I didn’t particularly enjoy. And, if I stretch my mind even further back to the novel that I had read before that, I can hardly remember its name or what it was about. In short, Ian Rankin, though a celebrated author had never really put a solid mark on my reading life with his creations. I cant say I hate the books, but I don’t find them overtly enjoying, as was the ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the best Inspector Rebus novel I have read so far. Rankin seems to have become more comfortable with the character of Rebus and Rebus seems to have become more comfortable with himself, curmudgeon that he is. He is still our Inspector John Rebus who believes solving the case is more important than career advancement. This world needs heroes, even if they are only written on a page.

I enjoyed the addition of another sidekick, a young female to take under his wing, and the inclusion of
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me reading an Ian Rankin book is like polishing off a candy bar. You can't stop at just a couple of bites. So this 340 page paperback didn't take long for me to finish. This is one of the older ones. It dates from the 1993 with no cell phones and computers in use but only at your desk. When a young member of Rebus's team, Brian Holmes, is assaulted at a restaurant with an Elvis theme, The Heartbreak Cafe, everyone is mystified as to why this would happen. Brian had been living with a young ...more
Nancy Ellis
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It had been awhile since I read a Rebus book, so I figured it was time. This did not fail to meet the great expectations I always have of this series. Five years ago, Edinburgh's seedy Central Hotel was torched, resulting in the discovery of a body shot through the heart. Meanwhile, his colleague Holmes gets knocked over the head and is unconscious in hospital, and a known child molester has returned to town and is acting suspiciously. Rebus, as usual, antagonizes and angers his superiors as ...more
David Nelson
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was another strong entry in the series. It was a little bloated and not as tightly plotted as it could've been with a LOT of characters and threads running through it. As ever it's satisfying when they all come together, but it was difficult to keep track of throughout. Nice to see it continue forming into a series rather than a stand alone book though, and Rebus as a character continues to come into focus. I would not be cool with my landlord turning up and sleeping on my couch though.
Baz MW
Jan 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Black Book brings about some great characters and plenty of action. If you’re into gangland, mafia style crime then this definitely hits the nail on the head.
This fell short for me in that it 100% felt like part of a series or saga and as such I wouldn’t recommend reading it on its own merits. The author almost expects the reader to already be very familiar with the main characters.
Even though this is part of a series, being crime fiction I still feel it should be able hold its own on.
Apr 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I'm enjoying reading Rankin's Rebus series in order, watching the character grow. Rankin does provide more complex plots than do many other authors, which is both a blessing and a curse. I sometimes find myself a bit confused over who is doing (or has done) what. That said, he has great characters, so it's all good fun.
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AKA Jack Harvey.

Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987; the Rebus books are now translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents.

Ian Rankin has been elected a

Other books in the series

Inspector Rebus (1 - 10 of 22 books)
  • Knots and Crosses (Inspector Rebus, #1)
  • Hide and Seek (Inspector Rebus, #2)
  • Tooth and Nail (Inspector Rebus, #3)
  • Strip Jack (Inspector Rebus, #4)
  • Mortal Causes (Inspector Rebus, #6)
  • Let It Bleed (Inspector Rebus, #7)
  • Black and Blue (Inspector Rebus, #8)
  • The Hanging Garden (Inspector Rebus, #9)
  • Dead Souls (Inspector Rebus, #10)
  • Set in Darkness (Inspector Rebus, #11)
“It’s easier if you do a handstand,’ commented Rebus. ‘What is?’ ‘Talking out of your arse.” 3 likes
“Hardship bred a bitter, quickfire humour and resilience to all but the most terminal of life's tragedies.” 1 likes
More quotes…