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This is the 17th Inspector Rebus novel, and as Rebus ages with the years, this book set at the time of the G8 summit on World Poverty in July 2005, must be one of the last (luckily not actually the last).It is quite a long book with 28 chapters and an epilogue.
The G8 summit seems quite far off now,at the time it must have provided a major security exercise for the Lothian police with a quarter of a million marchers summoned by Bob Geldof , and a gathering of international leaders expected to descend on the Scottish capital.Due to his well known anti- authority attitudes Rebus has not been included in the security arrangements at all, but has been consigned to the murder desk.The (fictional )murder , or possibly suicide of a Scottish MP does ofcourse take place,in dramatic circumstances during the summit by a fall from the walls of Edinburgh Castle itself ,down into Princes Street Gardens.
The plot is not so simple though as the book opens with Rebus at the funeral of his younger brother Michael, who has died at the age of 55 from a sudden stroke.The next day he is back at work, making a detour to Auchterader and the sinister Clootie Well where a clue to a recent Edinburgh murder has just been discovered. Thus we are drawn into the gritty world of Edinburgh crime with Rebus and his colleague Siobhan battling forces of evil which can be dented, but never totally defeated."Why do we do it" wonders Siobhon after her mother suffers a vicious attack, and Siobhon, intent on bringing the perptrator to justice is told by her mother to forget it as it doesn't matter, but Rebus' answer is matter of fact "because its what we do".
As usual Rebus succeeds in getting up the noses of his senior officers,and is taken off the murder case and suspended. Undetered he carries on regardless, setting up a sort of HQ at his flat, and later taking over an interview room at Craigmillar police Station, where they haven't heard about the suspension.When Siobhon makes a mistake he backs her up to the hilt, and his use of old fashioned policing methods bears results. No more!1 mustn't spoil it for you.
Gloriously rude, Rebus is still on top of his game but retirement is looming, not beckoning in his case. He dislikes his days off,having to sit watching TV on the sofa or sit silently alone drinking in bars staring ahead. When Siobhon suggests he take up golf he jokes that he doesn't because he can't see himself in a pastel coloured jumper. He decides to top himself rather than enter an old peoples home if it ever came to that. What will Ian Rankin decide for Rebus, well a bit more policework we hope anyway.
I haven't read all the Rebus books, but I came to them originally because they are set in Edinburgh where I lived for 4 years in the late 70's. I worked in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Western General Hospital mentioned in this book.It adds an extra dimension for me when Ian Rankin talks about for example The Meadows or Hanover Street, as I am able to picture where he is. Rebus is based in Edinburgh, but the books are just as much about Edinburgh as Rebus himself I think, and thats why it seems appropriate to base this particular novel around a real event. It is a measure of the skill of Ian Rankin author that he can combine fiction and reality in a believable way like this.
In summary, I enjoyed reading this book, which I had to do in short stretches, its not absolutely unputdownable,but it draws you in, and I look forward to Ian Rankins next book.
The Naming of the Dead published by Orion Books 2006, priced at £17.99
When you write a contemporary book its worth deciding if you want the book to be ultra relevant for today or a book that will age well. A great book will age slowly as although the fashions and environments differ the core story still works; for this reason classics still sell in their millions. Whether a book ages gracefully or not should have nothing to do with its setting, but sometimes it does. Populate the book with outdated technology and you may find the book written in 2004 is already backwards. The same pitfalls can occur to authors setting their book during a contemporary event such as an Olympic Games or World Cup - you are date stamping you novel forever. It takes an author of a high standard to pull this off, especially when the events are slightly more in tune with modern politics. Ian Rankin set 'The Naming of the Dead' during the G8 Conference of 2005 at Edinburgh - could he pull it off?
With the arrival of the G8 delegates comprised of the world's most powerful men and woman Edinburgh is a hive of activity. The entire police force is geared towards the protection of dignitaries and the handling of protestors. All hands to the pump except for Detective Inspector John Rebus and his partner Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clark whose reputation for trouble making has landed them the duty of manning the murder desk. When a clue is found that could hint to a serial killer who targets rapists Rebus is told to keep things quiet. This is not the Rebus way and he sets out to discover the truth about the murders and also look into the apparent suicide of an MP at Edinburgh Castle. Can DI Rebus and DS Clark circumnavigate the politics to get the job done?
Ian Rankin has consistently topped the best sellers list with his DI Rebus novels, but they are not a series that I have read very often. Almost yearly Rankin would produce a contemporary crime novel that would put Rebus in a situation that felt real for that moment in time. This is no exception with 'Naming' that puts Rebus in the very real hotbed of Edinburgh in 2005. Mixing fictional elements with non-fiction is a tricky business as you have to respect the true events of the reality, but also entertain the reader. Rankin is a great writer and this is shown no clearer than in the way he intelligently weaves a made up crime into the events of 2005. The G8 conference itself happened, but also remember the announcement of London 2012 and the horrific bombings the next day. All these elements would detract from the story from a lesser author, but Rankin uses them as a rich texture.
There is no denying the fact that the various real life events in the book date it to the extreme. The larger issues like the bombings did not do this, but smaller asides such as Bush falling off his bike - they provide texture, but will become irrelevant to future readers. However, is dating a book such a bad thing? Rankin is a bestselling author for a reason and that is because he appeals to audiences today. How is posterity going to help him in the long run when he is dead? Books should be written for today and not with tomorrow in mind; if the book is good enough it will naturally remain in society's consciousness long after the author is dead.
With an intriguing setting the story also had to hold up and it does. There are in fact two mysteries that interweave with each other and also the G8 Conference. The story is only enhanced by the various opportunities that Rebus has to butt up against authority. The series is popular because Rebus is such an anti-establishment officer and that comes to the fore in a very entertaining manner. It is Rebus' aggressive attitude that is the only thing that left me wary with the book as he is so rude that he could not possibly hold onto his job in the real world. Although lifelike in many areas 'Naming' is meant to be an entertaining crime book based on fiction so I tried to ignore it. All I can imagine is that as Rankin tries to give the reader something different each book he has to push Rebus further - perhaps at some point he entered the realms of fantasy. Rebus' nemesis Cafferty also appears in the book and for me he felt crow barred in as there was no real place for him.
With Rebus being incredibly rude to almost everyone he meets 'Naming of the Dead' is an entertaining mystery that is also funny in places. Rather than detracting from the story the use of real events enriches the environment and softens some of the more outlandish moments that Rebus creates. The actual mystery is also a good one that will have you guessing throughout, but leaves you with enough information to discover the truth beforehand if you are observant. Although I have not read that many of Rankin's books this is still the best of 3 or 4 and will make me read the rest of his back catalogue.
Author: Ian Rankin
Price: amazon uk - £5.59
play.com - £5.99
I have fallen behind of late with my reading as I keep finding new authors that are fascinating. As a result, I recently checked how I was doing with Ian Rankin's Rebus books, and realised that I am, indeed, a couple behind. with this one and the subsequent 'Exit Music' to read and get up to date on. So I settled down to read The Naming of the Dead, expecting and hoping for another thoroughly good Rankin tale.
And essentially I got it. Another murder case for Rebus to solve, some more bosses to annoy and a whole lot of trouble to get into is the order of the day, and not for the first time for the Scottish Detective Inspector. Set in 2005, Rankin uses the Gleneagles G8 summit to provide a backdrop to the political aspect of his tale, with protests and high levels of security for foreign dignitaries featuring quite heavily in the book. Rebus is being kept out of the way so he doesn't live up to his rep and cause havoc. He is assigned a quiet duty when he and his DS, Siobhan Clarke, come upon a series of links between three deaths.
Naturally, this involves the need for some careful political posturing, and when political figures and associates start emerging into the picture, it's only natural that the sour DI approaching retirement should stick his oar in once more and cause some waves.
Rankin manages to capture a political feeling quite well throughout the book, with some factual elements mixed well with the fictional tale he is telling. Rebus is the usual stubborn, hardnosed whisky drinking DI as we have come to expect, and Siobhan seesm hell bent on getting herself labelled as a troublemaker and s**tstirrer as well.
However, part of the magic of this is that, even as I'm writing this now, the main focus of the plot keeps flitting in and out of importance to make way for the characterisation. Granted, Rankin has had since the late 1980s to refine Rebus, but he still manages to do it better each time. The same goes with other long term characters, such as Siobhan and some other cops. Rebus' nemesis Big Ger Cafferty, the local crime lord, also features quite heavily.
All in all, it's a very well worked plot, that quickens in pace as the tale goes on. I found it took a while to get going, setting the political scene and introducing some key events and characters, but there are a couple of moments dotted around which seem to serve as background knowledge as opposed to something particularly or even vaguely significant. As Rebus and Siobhan get closer to the truth, they are warned off by a number of high ranking police and public figures, which only eggs them on even more.
There is something marvellous about the way Ian Rankin writes. You get an effortless, even lazy, feel to his style, while the combination of words themselves are intense murder mysteries. This one is no exception, and despite having what I felt was a bit of padding (intricate description of G8 events, etc) I found it hard to put down, to be honest. It's just over 500 pages long, and is readily available online or in booksops, generally much less than its RRP of about £7. Either way, I recommend you read it either as a natural extension of the previous Rebus books, or even on its own.
This book I bought for more personal reasons than the usual 'it just jumped in to the basket, Dad, honest' excuse I give when my Dad spots yet more books migrating on to the already groaning book cases in my room. My reasons simply were that as well as enjoying the other books which feature Rebus, during the period of time this book was set I was living in Stirling and working near the location of the G8 summit and Gleneagles during the day and in the City Centre at night. So my experiences of seeing the marchers, small scale riots, Protesters Camps and getting stuck in road blocks meant this book would either confirm my suspicsions about Ian Rankin's eye for detail and 'historical' accuracy or blow my belief by proving it to be all lies.
So going back to the plot, Rebus as we all know is getting on in years and beginning to quite look forward to his retirement but with his tenacity and still evident enjoyment of parts of his job he is unwilling to just sit back and coast through his final years in the force.
But some how he has been left excluded from the teams detailled with extra duties surrounding the Summit itself instead being left with a light caseload in the hopes of keeping him out of trouble while the dignitaries are in the country. But this is Rebus and we know that he is almost incapable of doing what his superiors expect him to do.
He has been given a case in which a known rapist has been murdered, but because of the victims past noone is overly concerned about his lack of a future, except that is Rebus, who despite not being the lead on the case (the honour of which has been handed to Siobhan Clarke his DS) manages to upset the head of a London based police group and several foreign dignitaries as he finds that apparently this murder is not an isolated case, but two other recently released offenders have been killed. Even worse as far as the Lothian Police are concerned evidence has been found just a few miles from Gleneagles much to close for them to be happy about the investigation to be going on.
Also a young Government Minister has died, tumbling from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle during a dinner held there, the general consensus is that Ben Webster jumped or fell but Rebus believes he may have been pushed, and adds this to his list of things to be finding out.
As I said earlier at the time of the Gleneagles summit I was in Stirling and was affected by several things, one most notably was that while I was travelling back in to town after work one evening we passed the Springkerse as the protesters were attacking the Retail park, the details Rankin includes about the area and damages they caused are accurate, and match closely with my own experiences, which is in my opinion quite rare, since authors have a habit of manipulating time scales and facts to fit their story rather than fitting their story to the facts!
There are several amusing scenes when Rebus and Siobahn are at Gleneagles and Siobhan is left asking 'Did we cause that?' about a now famous incident involving a man and a bicycle.
Though not the best Rebus book I have read it certainly ranks highly, as with several of Rebus' investigations you are left wondering why he has not been disciplined over some of his actions and feeling rather sorry for Siobahn as undoubtedly her career could be affected by Rebus dragging her down the wrong investigative path.
At 515 pages long it is quite a long book but I personally didnt feel that it was overly long, maybe that was because I was enjoying the story or because I was waiting for another section which I could analyse for accuracy regarding the events in Stirling its hard to say since I will admit that this has left me slightly biased, though I could just as easily have been disappointed by the way it was written about.
The cheapest online retailler for this title is play.com though it is as usual avaliable on amazons marketplace for slightly less, I bought it from Asda in the 3 for £10 offer.
July 2005, and the G8 leaders have gathered in Scotland. With daily marches, demonstrations, and scuffles, the police are at full stretch. Detective Inspector John Rebus, however, has been sidelined, until the apparent suicide of an MP coincides with clues that a serial killer may be on the loose. The authorities are keen to hush up both, for fear of overshadowing a meeting of global importance - but Rebus has never been one to stick to the rules, and when his colleague Siobhan Clarke finds herself hunting down the identity of the riot cop who assaulted her mother, it looks as though both Rebus and Clarke may be up pitted against both sides in the conflict. THE NAMING OF THE DEAD is a potent mix of action and politics, set against a backdrop of the most devastating week in recent British history.