This is the 20th and final title in Ian Rankin’s hugely successful Inspector Rebus series.
I have read them all, not a dud among them, in fact I think they got better and better as the series progressed. There is no doubt for me that Rankin is the number one British author working in the crime fiction genre.
His plots are always topical, the previous title, The Naming of the Dead, was built around the G8 Conference when it was held in Edinburgh, while this latest one includes several references to the London murder of Alexander Litvinenko, which occurs around the same time, November 2006, as the murder in Rebus’ last case, that of a dissident Russian poet in Edinburgh following a reading to promote his latest collection of verse.
This brutal murder occurs ten days before the compulsory retirement at 60 of Detective Inspector Rebus, something his superiors are keenly looking forward to, while his longtime colleague, DS Siobahn Clarke, has very mixed feelings.
At first the murder looks to be an abortive mugging but the presence in Edinburgh of a delegation of Russian businessmen tends to muddy the waters and as Rebus and Clarke and others in their team dig deeper the attack appears to be less random, something far more sinister.
The close scrutiny of the Russian delegation by Rebus’ team starts to annoy the Scottish authorities and all sorts of pressures are brought to bear. Rebus, renowned for his irascibility and unpredictability is desperate to resolve the case before his departure, a task made all the more difficult when three days before his retirement ,in a moment of great provocation his superior bans him from Gayfield Square Police Station.
Underlying the story is the presence of Ger Cafferty, the Edinburgh gangster who has long been Rebus’ nemesis, and who Rebus has always wanted to “put away”.
There is a significant amount of dialogue in the novel, (Rankin is a master of dialogue), with much of it taking place in various bars, and in particular Rebus’ “home” bar, The Oxford. This is a real Edinburgh pub where Rebus has always drunk, and where Rankin drinks in real life. Indeed the medical team of Professor John Gates and Doctor John Hurt who are always called in to do the grisly work in the Rebus novels are named after the owner and the barman at The Oxford.
Inevitably the case is solved, following a few unexpected twists, we attend the farewell party for Rebus, at The Oxford of course, where among his gifts is an I-Pod, most appropriate as he is fond of a wide range of popular music which has always been a major part of his life – “My exit music, Rebus commented with a look close to contentment”. There is also a bottle of 25 year-old malt, also appropriate.
So will he be back? Certainly not as a policeman as it is mandatory to retire at 60 in Scotland, but there is a slight hint that he might sign up with the Serious Crime Unit, “three retired detectives whose job was to look at unsolved”.
Time will tell I guess, Rankin may well be tired of him after 20 novels, and 20 years.
I for onewill be sorry to see him go.
Rankin is visiting New Zeland in November, we may get a chance to ask him about Rebus' future.
Here is Rankin's NZ itinerary:
· Tuesday 20th November: ‘An Evening with Ian Rankin’, Rosnini College, 7pm, tickets $15 available from Ticketek
· Wednesday 21st November: ‘An Afternoon with Ian Rankin’, Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin, for free tickets call 03 474 3690 or visit your local library
· Wednesday 21st November: ‘An Evening with Ian Rankin’, Holiday Inn Centre, Christchurch, tickets $12 available from The Press office, or call Ruth on 03 384 4721
· Thursday 22nd November: ‘The Final Cut’, Rutherford House, Wellington. Tickets available at http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/index.html
· Thursday 22nd November: Rebus strikes for the last time! Martinborough Wine Cente, Martinborough. Tickets available from Hedleys bookstore or book at www.hedleysbooks.co.nz
· Friday 23rd November: Dymocks Literary Lunch, Rendezvous Hotel. Enquires and bookings phone: 09 5208805, or email email@example.com