The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin

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The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin

Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Rebus finds himself investigating the apparent suicide of a young MP and the possibility of a serial killerall in the shadow of the G8 summit at Gleneagles. It's a fast-paced book and highly recommended at Bookbag Towers.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: April 2007
Publisher: Orion
ISBN: 978-0752881171

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It's a brave author who sets his novel in one of the most dramatic weeks in recent history, particularly when the events are so well known that there is no opportunity to tweak them or to use artistic licence. It's a genius who produces a plot which is totally convincing and leaves you feeling that you know more about the events than you gleaned from the media at the time.

It's July 2005 and world leaders are gathering for the G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland. Every spare policeman in England and Scotland is in the area to protect the leaders and to police the streets of Edinburgh where the political activists are gathering to march first in the city and then onto Auchterader. Only one officer seems to be relatively unemployed and that's Detective Inspector John Rebus. His bosses wish that he'd retire: he doesn't know what he'd do with himself if he did.

It's the apparent suicide of an MP by jumping from the walls of Edinburgh Castle which brings Rebus off the sidelines, but this is quickly followed by the discovery of clothing at a Clootie Well very close to Gleneagles which suggests that a serial killer is at work. In an unusual twist, the killer specialises in killing men who have recently been released from prison for rape or other sexual offences. A stretched police force is not going to be too worried about a killer who seems to be doing them a favour. The newly-appointed Chief Constable places the case in the hands of Rebus' protégé, Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke, but Siobhan finds herself distracted when her mother is viciously attacked on one of the marches.

Ian Rankin was in Edinburgh throughout the week of the G8 summit and he conveys the atmosphere to perfection, from the people with high ideals, wanting to make a difference for the poorest people in the world through to the disaffected people of the poorest parts of Edinburgh who'd like to make a difference to their own lives. Rankin catches the zeal of the protestors, the gung-ho attitude of some of the police and the edginess of the crowds. I felt I was there: on occasions I felt frightened. There are marvellous contrasts with the situation at Gleneagles, where no expense or detail is spared to protect the leaders and to provide facilities for their staff. The futility of the summit against the backdrop of what was happening in the real world is stark.

Atmosphere alone doesn't make a book. There's got to be a good plot and this one is a cracker. There are several sub-plots and they all weave in and out of each other effortlessly. In fact, after you've finished the book you'll be hard-pressed to say which was a sub-plot and which the main item. There's no point at which anything seems contrived and the pace of the book will leave you breathless.

Rebus can't be far from retirement, whether he likes it or not and it does seem that Rankin is grooming Siobhan Clarke for the lead role at some point in the future. Rebus will be a hard act to follow: wayward so far as authority is concerned and uncontrollable, but focused on his own version of justice. Clarke is ambitious, but is easily distracted and shows worrying signs that she might be influenced by the local criminal fraternity. Whatever happens can only be fascinating for the reader. This book had some fascinating cameo parts - Siobhan's parents, wrapped up in themselves but not in their daughter and David Steelforth, the Special Branch Commander in charge of the security operation who knows a lot more than he's saying.

It seems almost superfluous to comment on the writing and the use of dialogue. Of course it's excellent - it's Rankin. When I read Resurrection Men back in 2002 I thought that he couldn't get any better, but with each succeeding book he has. He's a hard-working author, never content to rest on the success of the last novel and it shows in the quality of the books he produces. He's almost certainly the best crime novelist writing at the moment and there are few to beat him in any other genre.

Each of the Rebus novels can be read as a stand-alone book. There are few spoilers and none of any importance but knowledge of what has gone before does add to the enjoyment of each book. There's a list of the Rebus novels in chronological order here.

This book was kindly sent to The Bookbag by the publishers.

Buy The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin at Amazon.com.


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Magda said:

Considering that DH has particpated in the march while I now live 25 minutes by bus from Gleneagles and my doctor and the nearest library are both in Auchterarder, while Strahallan School where some of the police were stationed in is couple of miles down the road, I really should read this one!

Sue said:

You'd feel quite at home, Magda!

Beverley Kerry said:

I haven't read Ian Rankin before, but this review did interest me and make me want to read more. I have enjoyed the few detective novels I have read in the past; I shall endeavour to add this one to my collection.

Amanda Borley said:

I enjoy reading Ian Rankin's books and prefer the books to the TV series.

Soho Black said:

Rankin's Rebus always reminds me a little of Mark Billigham's D.I. Thorne - they're both gritty series. My main worry from this book is whether Rebus will find a place to go to - for any reader of gritty crime fiction, the thought of his retirement is upsetting.

Sue replied:

It worries me too. Siobhan Clarke is a good character, but as a foil to Rebus rather than instead of him. I'm not at all certain that would work, unless he was retired in name only!

Claire Pateman said:

I think the tv character that is closest to the book is undoubtedly Ken Stott. There is no substitute for a good read tho'! ;o)

Sue replied:

Oh, give me the book any day, Claire!