‘Siobhan was a friend, perhaps the closest he’d ever had – despite the age gap and the fact she didn’t like most of the music he played’ (Saints of the Shadow Bible)
We first meet Detective Constable Siobhan Clarke in The Black Book. Accordingly to Ian: ‘I had found Rebus’s perfect working partner: someone who respected him but could still be infuriated by his reluctance to stick to the rules; someone confident enough in their own abilities to be able to give as good as they got. It was not in Siobhan’s nature to remain ‘just another colleague’; she seemed to have other ideas entirely’.
Siobhan is the polar opposite to Rebus: not only is she English, but she’s much younger than Rebus, she comes from a middle-class left-wing background and she has a university degree. She fits in perfectly with the modern police force and through the series we see her rise up the ranks until by Saints of the Shadow Bible, she outranks Rebus. As the series develops so does their friendship and the grudging respect between the two: she is a worthy sidekick for Rebus.
Siobhan plays by the rules; she’s young and ambitious and she embraces the new techniques of policing. She is the perfect foil to Rebus and has contrasting methods of investigation (Rebus takes the intuitive approach, Clarke follows strict police procedure). She appreciates his skills but she knows that he is a loose cannon and, particularly in the later books, it is Siobhan that tries to ‘manage’ Rebus so that his maverick tendencies don’t upset the ongoing investigations.
As the series progresses, Siobhan gradually comes more to the fore until she fully emerges in The Falls, which is as much Siobhan’s book as Rebus’s; they share the limelight equally although working separately on different cases. Siobhan’s case involves role-playing games in cyberspace – a place where Rebus feels utterly lost. As Ian wrote in an introduction: ‘It was a way of allowing Siobhan to show her mettle. This would be her case, an opportunity for her to prove she’s as capable a detective as her mentor, but with a different set of skills. Perhaps the point I was trying to make is that Siobhan doesn’t need Rebus anymore. She’s happy to work with him, but as equals.’
Although there were hints of romance between Rebus and Clarke in early books, including a cringe-making attempted kiss at the end of A Question of Blood, Ian has emphatically said, ‘They will never jump into bed together’.