Thursday, April 7, 2011

Exit Music by Ian Rankin: A review

Anyone who follows my book reviews is probably already aware that I am a big fan of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series. Mysteries are my favorite genre and the Rebus series is really one of the best, in my opinion. Rankin can always be counted on to give us believable characters and situations and always there is in the background the wonderfully funky and historic city of Edinburgh, a smallish town in a smallish country where everybody and everything seems intertwined. And always in the middle of it all is Rebus, a cop who hates being hamstrung by rules, but a cop, who at his core is a very moral man. That's what drives him crazy.

What keeps him sane is the music. Rock music. It is the background noise of his life. It tells the story of his alienation, his lost loves, his broken marriage, the daughter who has drifted away, the dead friends, the ghosts of cases without a "result." Those ghosts haunt him at night as he sits in his favorite chair in his living room, a tumbler of malt in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and music from his vast collection of CDs streaming from his audio system.

But now the music that John Rebus is hearing is Exit Music. He is one week away from retirement from his long inglorious career with Borders and Lothian Police. He's trying to interest his partner DS Siobhan Clarke in his collection of "no results" so that she will carry on with them when he is gone. He's also shadowing his great nemesis "Big Ger" Cafferty in hope of finally finding something that will put him away for good. He had been able to send Cafferty to prison a couple of times in his career, but never for long enough. Now he's out and, to all appearances, a legitimate businessman. Rebus doesn't believe it.

Then, right in the middle of his last week and his wrapping up of loose ends, a dissident Russian poet who is in Edinburgh gets himself murdered. At first it seems like a simple mugging, but as Rebus and Clarke dig deeper, things get more complicated. Things get even more complicated with a second murder of a man who had been recording the poet's appearances at book stores and other venues. Are the two murders related?

Finally, just after he has had a late night meeting with John Rebus, "Big Ger" Cafferty is brutally attacked and left for dead. Initial evidence points to Rebus as the attacker. Will he be able to finish out his last week with CID without being arrested for assault with grievous bodily harm, or even murder?

Rebus is now nearing 60, but is just as irascible as ever. He can't even get through his last week on the job without being suspended. Of course, when did a minor impediment like a suspension ever stop John Rebus? He goes on with his investigation as if nothing had happened.

This is the 17th and final entry in the Rebus series. I guess we knew it had to end sometime, and it's probably best that Rankin puts his detective out to pasture before he begins to repeat himself. He's probably heartily fed up with the old boy after all these years and ready to move on to other things.

Still, I will miss him and I shouldn't be surprised to find myself wondering how Rebus is coping with retirement. Somehow I suspect it would not be a pretty thing to watch.

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