|This book is too big for its own good. It seemingly involves a dozen police officers, a dozen criminals, and a dozen other sundry characters. At the beginning there are four plot lines, which eventually converge into one. Unfortunately the convergence is both inevitable and seems forced - you have the feeling that the author has devised a criminal organization and is uncovering it part by part to the reader's delight, which is exactly what he is doing its just that you don't want it so apparent. There are also characters which appear at opportune times (for the author) and conveniently disappear; in particular the media people leak information around and act to put public pressure on the detective, but they are not a very consistent part of the novel.
In essence a gang is smuggling drugs into Glasgow, but as there is no market there they are shipping them up to Aberdeen and then to the oil platforms in the North Sea. People start to compromise their operation, so assassinations start to take place and that is when the detective steps in to unravel things. Along the way he considers an old case of a serial murderer who has long gone into hiding, but is taking an interest in the present events because an assassin is emulating him, putting him in danger of being caught himself.
As is typical with Ian Rankin, place names tumble out of the hat (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, the Shetland Isles...), but a real sense of location or atmosphere is not really put across well (although the detective's excursion to an oil platform is interesting). On the other hand, the characters are by turns rough and crude and subtle and refined, and the dialogue never stops flowing. Best of all is the insight Ian gives into police and criminal minds.
If Ian could have kept the story to a manageable cast of characters, it would have been up with the best of them (like the Hanging Garden).