The 3rd novel in the Detective Rebus series sees our lead seconded to London to assist with a hunt for a cannibalistic serial killer nicknamed the Wolfman. With his London colleagues less than pleased with his interference and distant connections between the case and his daughter Sammy’s new boyfriend Rebus needs to act quickly before the Wolfman’s taste for blood develops.
Having lived and worked in London for nearly a decade seeing Rebus work the boroughs and streets I’m more familiar with brought this story to life for me. In particular his description of the troubled no go housing estates in East London and the vibrant but faceless streets of Soho and Piccadilly. His grasp of places and ability to breathe life into them is a true literary skill.
This is the first of Rankin’s books where he starts to really explore the psychological make-up of his killer both through Rebus’s musings and more obviously through the assistance offered to the case by Lisa Frazer a student psychologist masking as a qualified Doctor who unintentionally marks herself out as a target for the crazed serial killer. Rankin also gives us the reader a deeper insight to the Wolfman through chapters dedicated to thekiller’s narrative. Exposed to the confused and tangled thoughts and actions of our serial killer Rankin is a master at making us think we know more than Rebus and yet leaving us completely in the dark as to the true nature, gender and identity of the Wolfman.
Tooth and Nail is also noted for the first reference of Morris Gerald Cafferty. Initially just a cameo role he will go on to become Rebus’s chief adversary and major league gangster in Edinburgh. I wonder if Rankin knew when Rebus went back to Scotland, in Tooth and Nail, to give evidence against Cafferty, that he would become such a major character in the subsequent books.
This is a fantastic mystery and like his previous novels Rankin has you turning page after page as your day just passes you by. Don’t start this if you have a to-do list because believe me you won’t get the chores done.