Ian Rankin is best known for his John Rebus police procedurals.
However, using the pseudonym Jack Harvey, he has written several
books in a series that features Gordon Reeve, a villain now turned
hero. Reeve is a decorated former Special Forces operative who now
lives in Scotland with his wife and son. He runs a training camp
for weekend "soldiers" and trains more serious clients who plan to
be bodyguards, mercenaries, or things he doesn't ask about. He is a
tightly wound man who has seen too much evil and has a hard time
controlling his temper.
In BLOOD HUNT (originally published in the UK in the 1990s), Reeve
gets a phone call from California telling him that his brother, a
freelance investigative reporter, is dead. The police report
James's untimely demise as a suicide. But Reeve has a sixth sense
that kicks in and he knows that this isn't true. He flies to
southern California and as soon as he hits the tarmac he picks up a
tail. Why? Who would want to follow him in the United States? Only
someone who is somehow involved with James and possibly with his
death. The tail doesn't bother him; it just makes him more curious
about what kind of information his brother uncovered.
Gordon Reeve is a man of action, and once he gets his hands on his
brother's notes, he slowly begins to understand the kind of global
conspiracy James was going to write about. With the help of a young
woman living in James's flat, Reeve begins to follow his brother's
trail in an attempt to learn if James's theories about mad cow
disease, myalgic encephalomyelitis and other chronic neurological
diseases could possibly be caused by pesticides and other chemicals
in food, clothing, houses, cars and every "unnatural" thing on the
These dreaded diseases have no cure and their precise etiology is
unknown. But human nature being what it is, who among those
involved in this multi-billion dollar business is either going to
blow the whistle or allow anyone to expose the festering behind the
scenes? Reeve now has no doubt that his brother was murdered, and
he knows what the motive was.
After a few close calls of his own, Reeve "picks up signals" that
lead him to believe that he knows who is at the center of all the
killings --- including James's --- that began about the time James
commenced his research. He is Reeve's nemesis: "Jay," or "J," as he
insists on being called (no one knows if that is his given name, a
surname or an initial), but anyone who has met him is fully
cognizant of the arrogance exuded by this heartless man. He became
a target when he left Reeve to die in the mud, when the two were
ordered on a suicide mission, during the war in Argentina. Jay is
now a hired killer who enjoys his work and is looking forward to
the inevitable confrontation with Reeve.
Ian Rankin is one of the finest writers in the English language.
His breadth of knowledge and the thorough research he does imbue
his novels with a verisimilitude not often found in genre (or other
types of contemporary) writing. His characters are always
believable, humanized and flawed. That's what makes them so
Readers and fans should not pass up the suspense and action offered
in BLOOD HUNT. The book is not only a good mystery, it also works
as a cautionary tale --- a timely one that will provoke readers to
think about the issues raised here. While Rankin has whispered from
time to time that he just doesn't know what to do with his aging
Rebus, he won't let his audience down; another tale featuring the
paradoxical detective has to be in the works.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on December 22, 2010