Gregor Jack has it all: young, wealthy, and charming, he's 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. Enter Detective John Rebus: he smells a set-up. When Jack's flamboyant 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. Now Rebus is on a new quest--to find a killer who holds all the cards.
Strip Jack is a stellar entry in Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series, which The New York Times calls "A superior series."
About the Author
Ian Rankin is the worldwide #1 bestselling writer of the Inspector Rebus books, including Knots and Crosses, Hide and Seek, Let It Bleed, Black and Blue, Set in Darkness, Resurrection Men, A Question of Blood, The Falls and Exit Music. He is also the author of The Complaints and Doors Open. He has won an Edgar Award, a Gold Dagger for fiction, a Diamond Dagger for career excellence, and the Chandler-Fulbright Award. He has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow, and received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his contributions to literature. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982. He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and their two sons.
Hometown:Edinburgh, London and France
Date of Birth:April 28, 1960
Place of Birth:Cardenden, Scotland
Read an Excerpt
By Ian Rankin
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 1992 Ian Rankin
All rights reserved.
The Milking Shed
The wonder of it was that the neighbours hadn't complained, hadn't even – as many of them later told the newsmen – realized. Not until that night, the night their sleep was disturbed by sudden activity in the street. Cars, vans, policemen, the static chatter of radios. Not that the noise ever got out of hand. The whole operation was directed with such speed and, yes, even good humour that there were those who slept through the excitement.
'I want courtesy,' Chief Superintendent 'Farmer' Watson had explained to his men in the briefing room that evening. 'It may be a hoor-hoose, but it's on the right side of town, if you take my meaning. No telling who might be in there. We might even come across our own dear Chief Constable.'
Watson grinned, to let them know he was joking. But some of the officers in the room, knowing the CC better than Watson himself apparently did, exchanged glances and wry smiles.
'Right,' said Watson, 'let's go through the plan of attack one more time ...'
Christ, he's loving this, thought Detective Inspector John Rebus. He's loving every minute. And why not? This was Watson's baby after all, and it was to be a home birth. Which was to say, Watson was going to be in charge all the way from immaculate conception to immaculate delivery.
Maybe it was a male menopause thing, this need to flex a bit of muscle. Most of the chief supers Rebus had known in his twenty years on the force had been content to push pens over paper and wait for retirement day. But not Watson. Watson was like Channel Four: full of independent programmes of minority interest. He didn't make waves exactly, but by Christ he splashed like hell.
And now he even seemed to have an informer, an invisible somebody who had whispered in his ear the word 'brothel'. Sin and debauchery! Watson's hard Presbyterian heart had been stirred to righteous indignation. He was the kind of Highland Christian who found sex within marriage just about acceptable – his son and daughter were proof – but who baulked at anything and everything else. If there was an active brothel in Edinburgh, Watson wanted it shut down with prejudice.
But then the informer had provided an address, and this caused a certain hesitation. The brothel was in one of the better streets of the New Town, quiet Georgian terraces, lined with trees and Saabs and Volvos, the houses filled with professional people: lawyers, surgeons, university professors. This was no seaman's bawdy-house, no series of damp, dark rooms above a dockside pub. This was, as Rebus himself had offered, an Establishment establishment. Watson hadn't seen the joke.
Watch had been kept for several days and nights, courtesy of unmarked cars and unremarkable plainclothes men. Until there could be little doubt: whatever was happening inside the shuttered rooms, it was happening after midnight and it was happening briskly. Interestingly, few of the many men arrived by car. But a watchful detective constable, taking a leak in the dead of night, discovered why. The men were parking their cars in side streets and walking the hundred yards or so to the front door of the four-storey house. Perhaps this was house policy: the slamming of after-hours car doors would arouse suspicion in the street. Or perhaps it was in the visitors' own interests not to leave their cars in broad street-light, where they might be recognized ...
Registration numbers were taken and checked, as were photographs of visitors to the house. The owner of the house itself was traced. He owned half a French vineyard as well as several properties in Edinburgh, and lived in Bordeaux the year through. His solicitor had been responsible for letting the house to a Mrs Croft, a very genteel lady in her fifties. According to the solicitor, she paid her rent promptly and in cash. Was there any problem ...?
No problem, he was assured, but if he could keep the conversation to himself ...
Meantime, the car owners had turned out to be businessmen, some local, but the majority visiting the city from south of the border. Heartened by this, Watson had started planning the raid. With his usual blend of wit and acumen, he chose to call it Operation Creeper.
'Brothel creepers, you see, John.'
'Yes sir,' Rebus answered. 'I used to own a pair myself. I've often wondered how they got the name.'
Watson shrugged. He was not a man to be sidetracked. 'Never mind the creepers,' he said.
'Let's just get the creeps.'
The house, it was reckoned, would be doing good business by midnight. One o'clock Saturday morning was chosen as the time of the raid. The warrants were ready. Every man in the team knew his place. And the solicitor had even come up with plans of the house, which had been memorized by the officers.
'It's a bloody warren,' Watson had said.
'No problem, sir, so long as we've got enough ferrets.'
In truth, Rebus wasn't looking forward to this evening's work. Brothels might be illegal, but they fulfilled a need and if they veered towards respectability, as this one certainly did, then what was the problem? He could see some of this doubt reflected in Watson's eyes. But Watson had been enthusiastic from the first, and to pull back now was unthinkable, would seem a sign of weakness. So, with nobody really keen for it, Operation Creeper went ahead. While other, meaner streets went unpatrolled. While domestic violence took its toll. While the Water of Leith drowning still remained to be solved ...
'Okay, in we go.'
They left their cars and vans and marched towards the front door. Knocked quietly. The door was opened from within, and then things began to move like a video on double-speed. Other doors were opened ... how many doors could a house have? Knock first, then open. Yes, they were being courteous.
'If you wouldn't mind getting dressed, please ...'
'If you could just come downstairs now ...'
'You can put your trousers on first, sir, if you like ...'
Then: 'Christ, sir, come and take a look at this.' Rebus followed the flushed, youthful face of the detective constable. 'Here we are, sir. Feast your peepers on this lot.'
Ah yes, the punishment room. Chains and thongs and whips. A couple of full-length mirrors, a wardrobe full of gear.
'There's more leather here than in a bloody milking shed.'
'You seem to know a lot about cows, son,' Rebus said. He was just thankful the room wasn't in use. But there were more surprises to come.
In parts, the house resembled nothing more lewd than a fancy-dress party – nurses and matrons, wimples and high heels. Except that most of the costumes revealed more than they hid. One young woman seemed to be wearing a rubber diving suit with the nipples and crotch cut away. Another looked like a cross between Heidi and Eva Braun. Watson watched the parade, righteous fury filling him. He had no doubts now: it was absolutely proper that this sort of place be closed down. Then he turned back to the conversation he was having with Mrs Croft, while Chief Inspector Lauderdale lingered only a short distance away. He had insisted on coming along, knowing his superior and fearing some almighty cock-up. Well, thought Rebus with a smile, no cock-ups in sight yet.
Mrs Croft spoke in a kind of gentrified Cockney, which became less gentrified as time went on and more couples spilled down the stairs and into the large, sofa-crammed living room. A room smelling of expensive perfume and proprietary whisky. Mrs Croft was denying everything. She was even denying that they were standing in a brothel at all.
I am not my brothel's keeper, thought Rebus. All the same, he had to admire her performance. She was a businesswoman, she kept saying, a taxpayer, she had rights ... and where was her solicitor?
'I thought it was her that was doing the soliciting,' Lauderdale muttered to Rebus: a rare moment of humour from one of the dourest buggers Rebus had ever worked with. And as such, it deserved a smile.
'What are you grinning at? I didn't know there was an interval. Get back to work.'
'Yes, sir.' Rebus waited till Lauderdale had turned away from him, the better to hear what Watson was saying, and then flicked a quick v-sign at him. Mrs Croft, though, caught the gesture and, perhaps thinking it intended at her, returned it. Lauderdale and Watson both turned towards where Rebus was standing, but by then he was already on his way ...
Officers who had been posted in the back garden now marched a few pale-faced souls back into the house. One man had leapt from a first-floor window, and was hobbling as a result. But he was insistent, too, that no doctor was necessary, that no ambulance be called. The women seemed to find the whole thing amusing, and appeared especially taken by the looks on their clients' faces, looks ranging from the ashamed and embarrassed to the furious and embarrassed. There was some short-lived bravado of the I-know-my-rights variety. But in the main, everybody did as they were told: that is, they shut up and tried to be patient.
Some of the shame and embarrassment started to lift when one of the men recalled that it wasn't illegal to visit a brothel; it was only illegal to run one or work in one. And this was true, though it didn't mean the men present were going to escape into the anonymous night. Give them a scare first, then send them away. Starve the brothels of clients, and you'd have no brothels. That was the logic. So the officers were prepared with their usual stories, the ones they used with kerb-crawlers and the like.
'Just a quiet word, sir, between you and me, like. If I were you, I'd have myself checked over for AIDS. I'm serious. Most of these women could well be carrying the disease, even if it doesn't show. Mostly, it doesn't show till it's too late anyway. Are you married, sir? Any girlfriends? Best tell them to have a test, too. Otherwise, you never know, do you ...?'
It was cruel stuff, but necessary; and as with most cruel words, there was a truth to it. Mrs Croft seemed to use a small back room as an office. A cash-box was found. So was a credit-card machine. A receipt-book was headed Crofter Guest House. As far as Rebus could tell, the cost of a single room was seventy-five pounds. Dear for a B&B, but how many company accountants would take the trouble to check? It wouldn't surprise Rebus if the place was VAT registered to boot ...
'Sir?' It was Detective Sergeant Brian Holmes, newly promoted and bristling with efficiency. He was halfway up one of the flights of stairs, and calling down to Rebus. 'I think you better come up here ...'
Rebus wasn't keen. Holmes looked to be a long way up, and Rebus, who lived on the second floor of a tenement, had a natural antipathy to stairs. Edinburgh, of course, was full of them, just as it was full of hills, biting winds, and people who liked to girn about things like hills and stairs and the wind ...
Outside a bedroom door, a detective constable stood in quiet discussion with Holmes. When Holmes saw Rebus reaching the landing, he dismissed the DC.
'Take a look, sir.'
'Anything you want to tell me first?'
Holmes shook his head. 'You've seen the male member before, sir, haven't you?'
Rebus opened the bedroom door. What was he expecting to find? A mock-up dungeon, with someone stretched out naked on the rack? A farmyard scene with a few chickens and sheep? The male member. Maybe Mrs Croft had a collection of them displayed on her bedroom wall. And here's one I caught in '73. Put up a tough fight, but I had it in the end ...
But no, it was worse than that. Much worse. It was an ordinary bedroom, albeit with red lightbulbs in its several lamps. And in an ordinary bed lay an ordinary enough looking woman, her elbow pressed into the pillow, head resting at an angle on her clenched fist. And on that bed, dressed and staring at the floor, sat someone Rebus recognized: the Member of Parliament for North and South Esk.
'Jesus Christ,' said Rebus. Holmes put his head round the door.
'I can't work in front of a fucking audience!' yelled the woman. Her accent, Rebus noted, was English. Holmes ignored her.
'This is a bit of a coincidence,' he said to Gregor Jack MP. 'Only, my girlfriend and me have just moved into your constituency.'
The MP raised his eyes more in sorrow than in anger.
'This is a mistake,' he said. 'A terrible mistake.'
'Just doing a bit of canvassing, eh, sir?'
The woman had begun to laugh, head still resting on her hand. The red lamplight seemed to fill her gaping mouth. Gregor Jack looked for a moment as though he might be about to throw a punch in her general direction. Instead he tried a slap with his open hand, but succeeded only in catching her arm, so that her head fell back on to the pillow. She was still laughing, almost girl-like. She lifted her legs high into the air, the bedcovers falling away. Her hands thumped the mattress with glee. Jack had risen to his feet and was scratching nervously at one finger.
'Jesus Christ,' Rebus said again. Then: 'Come on, let's get you downstairs.'
Not the Farmer. The Farmer might go to pieces. Lauderdale then. Rebus approached with as much humility as he could muster.
'Sir, we've got a bit of a problem.'
'I know. It must have been that bugger Watson. Wanted his moment of glory captured. He's always been keen on publicity, you should know that.' Was that a sneer on Lauderdale's face? With his gaunt figure and bloodless face, he reminded Rebus of a painting he'd once seen of some Calvinists or Seceders ... some grim bunch like that. Ready to burn anyone who came to hand. Rebus kept his distance, all the time shaking his head.
'I'm not sure I –'
'The bloody papers are here,' hissed Lauderdale. 'Quick off the mark, eh? Even for our friends in the press. Bloody Watson must have tipped them off. He's out there now. I tried to stop him.'
Rebus went to one of the windows and peeped out. Sure enough, there were three or four reporters gathered at the bottom of the steps up to the front door. Watson had finished his spiel and was answering a couple of questions, at the same time retreating slowly back up the steps.
'Oh dear,' Rebus said, admiring his own sense of understatement. 'That only makes it worse.'
'Makes what worse?'
So Rebus told him. And was rewarded with the biggest smile he'd ever seen flit across Lauderdale's face.
'Well, well, who's been a naughty boy then? But I still don't see the problem.'
Rebus shrugged. 'Well, sir, it's just that it doesn't do anyone any good.' Outside, the vans were arriving. Two to take the women to the station, two to take the men. The men would be asked a few questions, names and addresses taken, then released. The women ... well, that was another thing entirely. There would be charges. Rebus's colleague Gill Templer would call it another sign of the phallocentric society, something like that. She'd never been the same since she'd got her hands on those psychology books ...
'Nonsense,' Lauderdale was saying. 'He's only got himself to blame. What do you want us to do? Sneak him out the back door with a blanket over his head?'
'No, sir, it's just –'
'He gets treated the same as the rest of them, Inspector. You know the score.'
'Yes, sir, but –'
But what? Well, that was the question. What? Why was Rebus feeling so uncomfortable? The answer was complicatedly simple: because it was Gregor Jack. Most MPs, Rebus wouldn't have given the time of day. But Gregor Jack was ... well, he was Gregor Jack.
'Vans are here, Inspector. Let's round 'em up and ship 'em out.'
Lauderdale's hand on his back was cold and firm.
'Yes, sir,' said Rebus.
So it was out into the cool dark night, lit by orange sodium lights, the glare of headlamps, and the dimmer light from open doors and twitching windows. The natives were restless. Some had come out on to their doorsteps, wrapped in paisley dressing gowns or wearing hastily found clothes, not quite hanging right.
Police, natives, and of course the reporters. Flash-guns. Christ, there were photographers too, of course. No camera crews, no video machines. That was something: Watson hadn't persuaded the TV companies to attend his little soiree.
'Into the van, quick as you can,' called Brian Holmes. Was that a new firmness, a new authority in his voice? Funny what promotion could do to the young. But by God they were quick. Not so much following Holmes' orders, Rebus knew, as keen to escape the cameras. One or two of the women posed, trying a lopsided glamour learned from page three, before being persuaded by WPCs that this was neither the time nor the place.
But the reporters were hanging back. Rebus wondered why. Indeed, he wondered what they were doing here at all. Was it such a big story? Would it provide Watson with useful publicity? One reporter even grabbed at a photographer's arm and seemed to warn him about shooting off too many pictures. But now they were keening, now they were shouting. And the flashbulbs were going off like flak. All because they'd recognized a face. All because Gregor Jack was being escorted down the steps, across the narrow pavement, and into a van.
'Christ, it's Gregor Jack!'
'Mr Jack! A word!'
Excerpted from Strip Jack by Ian Rankin. Copyright © 1992 Ian Rankin. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Also by Ian Rankin,
1 The Milking Shed,
2 Scratching the Surface,
3 Treacherous Steps,
5 Up the River,
6 Highland Games,
8 Spite and Malice,
9 Within Range,
10 Brothel Creepers,
11 Old School Ties,
12 Escort Service,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
love this humor in this fantastic series!
Interesting mystery and police procedural. The press hound a Scottish MP when he is found in a brothel. His wife subsequently goes missing. Rebus investigates.
Rebus is back in Edinburgh and is now struggling with, not the city's grimy underbelly, but rather its grimy "overbelly" when he tries to find out what happened to an MP's missing wife. It's a solid story and the characters are, as usual, very interesting, but since we're now dealing with affluent people whose crimes aren't committed because of a mix of desperation and societal influences, the stakes seem to be slightly lower than in the other Rebus-books. If you see this installment of the series more as a showing of inter-personal politics than a straight crime-story, it's a new angle that adds a little extra to the already three-dimensional world of the characters.
Loved this taut, character-rich, smart detective novel. In fact, reading this was so freakin' satisfying that I felt ticked about the time I've wasted recently on some new books that were marketed with a lot of vigor but left me wondering how they even got published. I was starting to think I was just not enjoying reading any more - a sad thought. But no, just sad excuses being published and promoted. How does that happen? I thought it was so competitive to get published. Oh well. I remember reading that Jean Paul Sartre read detective mysteries for pleasure. Sometimes I've thought, wow, that's sort of embarrassing, isn't it. But not today! Ian Rankin writes circles around these ridiculous authors I've tried lately. Life's too short, man. I need to trust my gut
When I chanced upon Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series I took no chances and tucked into it with gusto. The first in the series, Knots and Crosses wasn't all that, in fact it wasn't a very stron mystery. But as I went through the series one by one, the experienced stopped being a slop and became more os a joy. This book has been very entertaining and has rewarded my faith in Rankin.The storyline and plot are structures in Rankin's novels. Not that they are bad but they are merely one of many reasons to read the book. His writing is gossipy, psychological, sometimes schizophrenic but always rewarding to the reader because it encompasses so much. This story had the best flowing narrative so far. The description of the crime scene investigation part of the story is detailed, horryfying, and fascinating, even though it is just a peripheral part of the story. The discourses on books and the literary world is also fascinating but also peripheral. This series embodies all that is great with a multifaceted explorarion of crime and crime solving with hte grit and realism of a Dashiel Hammett novel.
Some good stuff (the hospital for the criminally insane), but one too many twists.
Great book by a great author.
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