THE majority of crime fiction fans count Ian Rankin among their favourite writers, but, somehow, I have missed out on his best-selling books.
Coming to Rebus: Long Shadows free of preconceptions or expectations about the stories or their protagonists, but as a great fan of adaptor Rona Munro, I can say that this tense, taut story works brilliantly as a play.
Set in front of a monumental stairwell designed by Ti Green, atmospherically lit by Cahine Yavroyan and Simon Bond, the story unfolds in retired detective John Rebus’s memory, prompted by a young girl he meets on the stairs to his flat.
His longtime adversary, the crime boss Big Ger Cafferty, is inevitably drawn into the tale of a cold case eventually solved and a new situation building up to crisis. Rebus, heavy, heavy-drinking and supposedly out to grass, can’t escape the images of old cases, or ignore the possibility of putting them to rights.
Ron Donachie, who has recorded all the Rebus-Rankin books for radio, creates a flawed, driven detective, human in his faults and unsettled in his new state.
His contest with Cafferty, charismatically played by the powerful John Stahl, is visceral, funny and sometimes terrifying.
Cathy Tyson plays Rebus’s disciple, the conflicted Siobhan, with BOVTS graduate Eleanor House in the dual role of Maggie and Heather.
No spoilers, but Rona Munro brings her spare prose to this play, creating a real picture of life in Edinburgh’s underworld, and a longing for the next installment.
It is on at Bath until Saturday. See it if you can.