Clarke knows enough about the man to give him some rein to chase down clues no one else wants to look at, but her long-standing admiration for Rebus's detective abilities is at odds with her own career prospects in the new-style, corporate police force, which is where Fox comes into the picture when Rebus manages to get himself temporarily attached to the missing persons department to help with the case.

There’s more to link the cases than the fact that all these girls disappeared along the same stretch of road. In the most recent cases photographs of the same country scene have been sent to mobile phones belonging to friends (and not always close ones) and relatives.

The search for that scene, which has to have some significance, sees Rebus travel the length of the A9 in his battered Saab, haring all over Scotland to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and the far north, unearthing buried secrets, tracking down those who have moved or retired to remote areas, bending and breaking the rules, arguing with his superiors, and displaying the Rebus single-minded doggedness in his quest for justice.

Alongside that investigation there’s a neat little subplot involving Cafferty, the up and coming underworld player who happens to be involved with the missing girl’s mother, and her brother.

Despite the time he’s spent on the sidelines Rebus works as well as he always has. He’s the same curmudgeonly dinosaur he always was, drinking and smoking more than most of us should, listening to his favourite folk and rock classics, not quite managing the reconciliation with his daughter as he continues to play by his own rules. 

Rankin writes as well as ever, and, most interestingly, has things set up rather nicely for the next couple of episodes in an evolving series. Along the course of the investigation the cold cases unit is wound up, so there’s no comfort for him there if he doesn’t get back on the force full time.

The realignments in the Edinburgh underworld have interesting implications for the future as Rebus looks to clamber back on board the train, Fox looks to ensure that he doesn’t and Siobhan Clarke continues to be torn between career ambitions and long term loyalties. It’s a prospect that’s guaranteed to have the fans scanning the horizon for news of the next instalment.

© Ian Hughes 2012