A young junkie named Ronnie McGrath is found dead in an Edinburgh squat - positioned like Christ on the cross - with candles beside him and what looks like satanic symbols on the wall. Ronnie's girlfriend, Tracy, tells Detective Inspector John Rebus that Ronnie was distraught before he died, and repeatedly cried "hide, hide." At first it looks like Ronnie overdosed, but Rebus learns that Ronnie's dope was tainted with rat poison.
Because Rebus is involved in a drug case his boss, Superintendent Watson, invites the detective to lunch with a few Edinburgh bigwigs who are involved with an anti-drug campaign. Rebus seems to be of interest to these rich, successful men, who invite him to a classy party and give him an 'honorary membership' in a gambling club.
Meanwhile, Tracy reports that she's being followed, and Rebus notices that he's being followed as well. It's clear that someone is interested in Rebus's investigation, and he has to find out why. To assist with his inquiries, Rebus reaches out to Sergeant Brian Holmes - the cop least likely to complain about Rebus's numerous demands.
It turns out that Ronnie was a threat to some people; Tracy knows more than she's telling; and Edinburgh's upper crust citizens have dark secrets. Some side plots in the story involve illegal dog fights, a gay character, and Rebus's ex-lover - Gillian Templer - who has a new radio DJ boyfriend. Rebus pines for Gillian and wants her back.
The book gets over-convoluted and some plot points don't make sense. Still, Rebus has good intuition and identifies the criminals in the end.
This is an early book in the Rebus series and he's kind of 'Rebus light.' That is - though he's demanding - Rebus isn't the difficult, pushy, irascible, alcoholic, boss-hating man he becomes in later books.
This is a pretty good story, recommended to mystery readers - especially Rebus fans.