DI John Rebus is a hard drinking, unkempt, womanizing police officer whose job is his whole life. He is the most senior and most experienced DI at his station. He has a mysterious past that his partner DS Siobhan Clarke learns about from time to time through various comments Rebus makes. She is a young woman who wants to succeed, but does not have much of a personal life. She feels being paired with Rebus jeopardizes her career because of his unorthodox methods, but she is also fascinated by the man and is extremely loyal. DI Rebus' boss is Chief Superintendent Templar, a woman who was one of Rebus' lovers in a distant past. Their relationship is now one where they barely tolerate each other.