Saturday, May 5, 2007

"The Naming of the Dead" by Ian Rankin

This is the 18th Rebus novel, believe it or not, and Rankin has done a great job over the years keeping Rebus near and dear to our hearts. If you've not yet discovered this Scottish crime series, you're missing out. Detective Inspector John Rebus is just about as flawed as they come - he drinks too much, smokes too much, eats crap food, doesn't sleep well (and rarely in his bed), and has a rather sizable problem with authority. He does, however, have great taste in music, and he has a work ethic that would put most to shame. John Rebus always solves the case, even if he doesn't always get his man.

At the beginning of this installment, it's 2005 and the G8 summit is descending on Edinburgh, to the delight of some and the chagrin of others. There are important men of state in town, as well as several thousand protesters; the tension is thick and the air charged. Rebus seems to be the only law enforcement official not needed to control the masses, which is why he ends up on the case of a dead delegate, one who either fell, jumped, or was pushed to his death. He also ends up looking into the death of a recently paroled rapist, a scumbag who worked for Rebus's arch nemesis, Gerald Morris Cafferty, aka "Big Ger", a local mobster. These cases may not look like much, but they give Rebus something to hang on to; he's just lost his younger brother, Michael, to a stroke. (Talk about some family issues as well as confronting your own mortality!) As usual, though, Rebus is about to butt heads with his superiors as well as his colleagues, all but his co-worker Siobhan Clarke.

The more John and Siobhan look into the two murders, the murkier things get. Two more deaths come to light that indicate there's a serial killer of sexual predators on the loose. There's a businessman who appears to be doing deals with foreign countries, deals that include weapons, and he could be involved in the delegate's death. There's a local councilman who also seems to be a bit closer to the situation than first thought, one who looks like a hero but appears to have strong ties with the local riff-raff. Add to this mix Siobhan's parents, who have come to camp out and protest with the throngs, and you have one very complicated plot. But it's a good complicated plot, one with several twists and turns, and nothing that doesn't make sense in the long run.

I highly recommend reading the entire series, in order if at all possible. Each novel can be read and enjoyed on its own, but when you read the series, you really get the background and power plays. Characters pop up quite often, such as Big Ger, and the relationship between Rebus and Siobhan makes more sense (at least one character in this book thinks they are more than just partners, which they aren't, not in the strictest sense). The great thing about the Rebus books is that John is aging in each of them, just like real life. In the early books, his marriage has just broken up but he's still trying to be there for his family, mainly his daughter. They aren't as involved in the later books, but it makes sense when you read the series why they aren't written about as much. Also, because this is done more in "real time", John is nearing retirement now and those issues are being explored. He really IS his job, and the thought of retiring is frightening - what will he do? Who will he be? Rankin is obviously "grooming" the character of Siobhan to be a replacement, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if John shows up in her series, probably as a PI or something similar.

A big thumbs-up for "The Naming of the Dead". Let's face it - sometimes you just need a good murder mystery on a rainy day. The Rebus books more than fit the bill - look for them today.

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