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For those that are familiar with Rankin's novels of the Rebus series, they would know how easy it is to get sucked into Rebus' mentality while the smart and well structured storylines transport you to a murky, crime ridden Scotland. However with this book, for some reason, it is lacking. There is a lot going on plot-wise and it simply seems a bit far-fetched whereas the gritty realism of his other books are what make them so appealing.
However, compared to crime novels outside of Rankin's title, it still fares better than others. Rankin clearly understands the justice system and also, more interestingly, is able to get across the mentality of those that are in danger or criminals, which sets it apart from the crime novels that simply play the 'blame game'. However if this is your first Rankin book, if you want to be wowed, perhaps reading 'A Question Of Blood' or a better structured book would be a better first read.
Possibly the finest authority in the field of critical book reviews, The Literary Review, states unequivocally that Dead Souls is, "A brilliantly meshed plot which delivers on every count ...", and in my temporarily adopted role as your (somewhat inadequate) book critic, I wholeheartedly agree with their opinion. Ian Rankin's supreme skill, it could be said, rests with his deceptively casual consideration of minor detail and the cleverly crafted depth of his characterisations. Where some authors appear to wallow in pages and pages of unnecessary detail, within a few well chosen sentences, Rankin paints a spellbinding picture of his people, their predilections and their place in his narrative. Even Rankin's central character, John Rebus, a detective based in one of the many police precincts within Scotland's capital city, is living, day-today, with his own hauntingly real 'predilections'. He is haunted, albeit subtly, by ghosts of those he has 'lost'. Now, whether he drinks to rid himself of these 'ghosts' or in order to gain a better understanding of their situation has little to do with the main thrust of this excellent storyline however, it has provided me with the 'preamble' for this 'review' of Dead Souls; the book I consider to be the best Ian Rankin work I've read to date. Rebus is all washed up. He's over-tired, over-stressed and over the edge as far as his career is concerned. He's lost a close friend to the 'bad guys' and, as this story commences, he is considering giving it all up. Retiring. To top it all, just when he's 'running on empty', Jim Margolies, a fellow officer, commits suicide. This otherwise 'ordinary' man got up in the middle of the night, walked - in the pouring rain - - to one of the highest points in Edinburgh and jumped off. At least, that's what his wife is saying he did. Rebus wonders, why? Why walk halfway across Edinburgh in the pouring rain ? Even if you were considering suicide. It would have been more 'practical' to drive to the chosen spot. So why? Why, after years of exemplary service does a d@m fine policemen decide to end it all? Tell no-one - not even his adoring wife - and just jump. No note - no nothing. Complications. John Rebus hears from an old school friend, Brian (Barney) Mee, the man who married Rebus's 'first love'. The Mee's are worried. Their son has disappeared and, as Rebus is an old 'family friend', so-to-speak, and in 'the job', they call him up and ask for his help in finding their son who, at the time of his disappearance, was due to be married. What with reminiscences of his youth, brought on by this unforeseen phone-call, the death of a close and respected 'buddy' followed by that of a fellow police officer; it would seem Rebus has more than his fair share of haunting problems. Running in tandem with these problems, Rebus is involved in the trial of two men suspected of child abuse during their term in charge of a children's home; the same children's home where, and at the same time as, Rebus's friend and confidant Father Leary had been the visiting clergyman. As the term 'red herring' does not seem to do Rankin's 'linkages' their full justice, I'll simply say that, another 'link' emerges when a one-time resident of the home is brought to Edinburgh to testify against his abusers. Darren Rough, is to give evidence in front of the presiding Judge, Judge Petrie. However, over the years, the witness, the abused child has, in turn, become a convicted paedophile and once Rebus allows word to get out, the locals are extremely unhappy with their new neighbour. Meanwhile, back in the Rebus homeland; The missing man
, the son of Rebus' one-time 'love interest', was last seen at a bar frequented by some of Edinburgh's partying elite, and indifferently prominent among this small group are the son and daughter of Judge Petrie, Amada (Amy) and Nicol (Nicky) Petrie, two of the biggest 'spoilt brats' you could possibly imagine!. Another off-shoot of this link is that there is also a blood-relationship between the dead policeman's wife and the Petries, with the added 'spice' of the disclosure that the little daughter of the dead policeman is a regular contestant in the world of children's pageants, where the "Little Angels", all girls, are kitted-out in all-too-adult dresses and make-up and paraded for the gratification of the adoring adults, (Jon Bennett Ramsey fashion) while the ever-present male master-of-ceremonies conducts the proceedings. Sidebar: Although Jon Bennett Ramsey was a regular contestant in such 'shows' in the States, I have not, as yet, been able to discover an equivalent set-up in the U.K. ... thank heaven for small mercies, I say (GG) Much of the action is set in an area of Edinburgh which it has not, as yet, been my 'pleasure' to 'experience' and that is the docks area of Leith. According to Rankin, this area was once the favourite haunt of the prostitute and the pimp, but now is all up-market clubs, swank hotels and high-rent apartments. Speaking as I find, strangely enough, it's much the same story in Glasgow. One of the Edinburgh clubs, the one which the Mee's son vanished from, is on board a ship, which, it must be said, reminded me more than a little of such an establishment that was at that time berthed in Glasgow. Into this conglomeration of story-lines comes one Cary Oakes, two-time murderer and ex-pat Scot who, on evading jail or the chair on a technicality, is thrown out of the USA and returned to his 'homeland'. He cons a natio
nal newspaper ( one not un-like the Glasgow Daily Record) into buying his story and proceeds to make life a living hell for the 'hack' assigned the task of 'minder' and biographer. All through this narrative, Rebus is constantly on his guard, aware that things might just be getting out-of-hand. He is right to watch his back, as on at least three occasions he finds himself, to say the least, in a very tricky situation. Read this book if you are a Rankin fan. It's possibly his best. Read this book if you are a rebus fan, it's better than any television programme could ever be. Read this book if you are a stalwart detective thriller reader, it will not disappoint. Read this book if you are at a loss for something - anything - to read ... you will gently transform you into an Ian Rankin devotee. Read this book. Enjoy. GG "Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than a smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August." GG
A call from an old friend brings back memories and more than a little guilt for DI John Rebus. An old schoolfriend's son has gone missing, the ghost of Jack Morton is inhabiting Rebus' dreams, a part-time poisoner is terrorising the local zoo and a freed paedophile rouses the vigilantes.